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Wordle helps save woman held hostage in home by naked intruder

The viral distraction turns into a lifesaver after a 17-hour kidnapping ordeal.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
2 min read
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Like so many, 80-year-old Denyse Holt has made a habit of playing word game Wordle every day. Then she texts her daughter about the daily word. It's a good thing she does, too. That regular share appears to have helped Holt emerge unharmed from a terrifying hostage ordeal. 

Holt was reportedly asleep in her Chicago-area home over the weekend when a naked man, bloody from breaking in through a front window, crawled into bed with her holding a pair of scissors. "I was in shock," a remarkably composed Holt told local CBS affiliate WBBM-TV. "I was trying to survive, that's all. He said, 'I won't harm you or molest you.'"   

The man ordered Holt to shower with him before changing his mind and telling her they had to take a bath. After they got out of the tub, he barricaded her in a small basement bathroom. 

Holt's daughter Meredith Holt-Caldwell, who lives in Seattle, told CBS reporter Steven Graves she noticed the next morning that her mom wasn't reading her text messages and hadn't shared her score like usual. Holt-Caldwell alerted police, who arrived on the scene with a SWAT team that ultimately subdued the suspect using a stun gun shot through a hole in the door.  

Police identified the man as 32-year-old James H. Davis III. 

"The investigation determined that the subject in police custody had discarded his clothing in the early morning hours on Sunday in what police believe to be a mental health crisis and then broke into the victim's residence," Lincolnwood police said in a statement. 

Davis was arrested just before 3 a.m. Monday and has been charged with three felonies: home invasion with a dangerous weapon; aggravated kidnapping while armed with a dangerous weapon; and aggravated assault against a peace officer. 

Holt said she didn't think she'd make it out of the situation alive. "I'm very lucky," she said. 

Wordle, for anyone who avoids social media, challenges players to guess a five-letter word in six tries. The New York Times acquired the game last month for a figure in the low millions of dollars.