May 11, 2008, was a night that Paul Traub will never forget. It was a night of horror that few will ever experience. It was also a night of a miracle – for Paul Traub somehow managed to survive one of the most brutal home invasion attacks ever to occur in Dakota County, Minnesota.
That fateful night, Paul Traub did what most of us have done at some point in our lives – he forgot to close the garage door and he had not locked the door to the inside of his Burnsville townhome. Paul awoke to a noise and voices and got up to find two teenagers inside his home.
As he attempted to call 911 Paul was stabbed 3 times in the head and face (one blow so severe that the tip of the knife broke off in his skull – where it remains today). He fell to the floor. His attackers told him he was going to die. He was stabbed 17 times in the back. He was doused with a flammable liquid. His attackers started 8 fires throughout his townhome, including one in the master bedroom where Paul was lying and bleeding from his wounds. They ripped out his phone, disabled the smoke alarm and turned on the gas in the stove so it would blow up when the flames reached it. They left Paul for dead and fled, stealing some property and his car as they did so.
Had Paul Traub lost consciousness that night, he would not have survived, but fortunately that was not the case. He struggled to his feet after his assailants left and literally ran through a wall of flames to escape. And nothing tells you more about the true nature of this amazing man than the fact that Paul’s first thoughts were not just for his own safety, but for the safety of his neighbors in the fourplex in which he lived who could have also perished in the fire that night.
Paul escaped the flames, fled across the street and pounded on a neighbor’s door. The first police officer on the scene described Paul’s face being so covered with blood that the only parts that weren’t red were his teeth and the whites of his eyes.
Paul was hospitalized and his physical injuries healed, but then he had to relive this nightmare multiple times through the charging and trial process, and the ultimate conviction and sentencing of his two assailants. Paul’s emotional trauma from this ordeal lingers on even today.
The criminal justice process can be slow and difficult, especially for a victim of a crime of violence of this magnitude, but Paul’s courage and strength shined through like a beacon every step of the way. Paul first worked with the police as they tried to identify his attackers, who ultimately were found and charged a little over 3 months later. Paul then worked with our prosecutors and victim advocates as these cases were prepared for trial.
One defendant pled guilty. The second went to trial and Paul testified about his ordeal with great courage and strength. The second defendant was found guilty by the jury.
Finally, Paul delivered his victim impact statements at the sentencing of these two defendants – statements which not only once again exhibited great courage and fortitude, but also displayed his spirituality, human grace and forgiveness.
While Paul is a humble and soft-spoken man, he has stepped out of his comfort zone on several occasions to speak about his survival and the help afforded him along the way by the Burnsville Police Department and our prosecutors and victim advocates.
He appeared on the nationally televised show “I Survived” to send a message of survival, hope and healing to other victims across the country.
Paul Traub is a remarkable man who has exhibited more courage, strength and absolve than I could ever hope to do under similar circumstances. Paul Traub will never be forgotten by those of us in the Dakota County Attorney’s Office who were privileged to work with him.
On April 9, 2014, in Washington D.C., Paul Traub will receive the national Special Courage Award given out by the Office for Victims of Crime, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Paul Traub is a most worthy recipient of this national award of courage, and we are grateful to the Office for Victims of Crime for bestowing this honor upon him.
James C. Backstrom
Dakota County Attorney