Content warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of domestic violence.
On the evening of Jan. 22, Seattle Seahawks player Chad Wheeler brutally assaulted his girlfriend Alleah Taylor in her own bedroom. Taylor, a 27-year-old healthcare worker, says the 6′ 7″ and 310-pound NFL lineman strangled, punched, and sat on her until she lost consciousness. Her survival, as she describes it, “was an act of God.”
Wheeler, who was released by the Seahawks, pleaded not guilty to criminal charges of first-degree domestic violence assault, domestic violence unlawful imprisonment, and resisting arrest. He was released from jail after posting a $400,000 bond and apologized via Twitter for what he called “a manic episode.”
For the first time since the attack, Taylor reveals in her own words what happened that night—and how she’s learning to heal.
There was blood when I touched my face. A lot of blood. My head was pounding, and my entire body ached. Everything felt fuzzy.
Was I dead?
No way I could have survived that. And yet, when I opened my eyes, he was there. My boyfriend, Chad. Standing in the doorway of my room. Slurping that stupid smoothie.
I was still breathing, but the nightmare was far from over.
“Wow,” he said in between sips. “You’re still alive?”
Our relationship started like most do now. Chad liked all of my Instagram pictures, then slid into my DMs. I’m not big on football and I’d never heard of him, but a quick Google search revealed he was a big deal in the NFL. Offensive tackle. Seattle Seahawks.
When we met up one week later, it felt like destiny. We are both Capricorns who loved hair metal and the movie Tropic Thunder. We started spending all our time together, going on pandemic walks, cooking, and babysitting my nephew.
He said “I love you,” and I said it back. When he called me his soulmate, I felt the same.
By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I’d never felt happier—or more complete. I didn’t want any presents at Christmastime, because I already had everything I ever wanted.
The day that changed everything started out so normal. Before leaving for work, I got Chad, who was still sleeping, a glass of water. I lit a soothing eucalyptus-scented candle and whispered, “Get some rest!” Because of his position in football, he takes a lot of hits, and I wanted the bedroom to feel like a sanctuary. A safe space. My mission was to make him feel as comfortable as possible.
After I got to work, Chad texted me a selfie. His head was shaved. You have to understand—his hair is his identity. He had this gorgeous, silky flowing mane. To say it was his pride and joy is an understatement. The new look was shocking, and completely out of character. Something was off, so I raced home to check on him.
“Is everything okay?” I asked. “This is not like you.”
He tried to brush it off, like it was just a haircut. Then he started to cry. I hated seeing him so sad. Consoling him did nothing, neither did hugging. We were supposed to fly to Hawaii for vacation the next morning, so I kept reminding him, “Tomorrow we will be in paradise!”
We prayed together, but that didn’t seem to work, either. Thinking he might be hungry, I ordered us smoothies to be delivered.
After the food arrived, Chad went into the bedroom. When I came in, he was an entirely different person. [Editor’s note: According to court documents obtained by ELLE.com, Taylor told police officers she believes Wheeler has bipolar disorder and had not been taking his medication at the time of the attack.]
He demanded I bow down. It threw me off, because he had never asked me to do something like that before. I backed up and asked why. He said it again. The look in his eyes—a look of determination—was terrifying. The next thing I knew, he had grabbed my neck and slammed me onto the bed. He started to strangle me.
“Please Chad,” I begged. “It’s me.”
He stuffed his fingers in my mouth and choked me with his other hand. I tried to twist out of his grip, but he yanked my arm back. Then everything went black.
When I woke up, I was staring at the ceiling. But before I could move, he was on me again. I lost consciousness. When I came to, I ran past him into the bathroom, locked the door, and called the police. I didn’t know how much time I had left. I could hear him in the living room, eating dinner like nothing happened. Still drinking that smoothie.
This was who I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. The person I loved most in the world. The man I talked about having a baby with.
So why was he doing this?
I’m not sure I’ll ever know, but I won’t let him get away with it.
Doctors were surprised I survived at all. My humerus bone was broken, and my elbow was dislocated. I suffered a concussion, and had lesions on my throat where he strangled me. A blood vessel burst, and I aspirated fluids. My whole body was bruised. I vomited blood for hours. Chad left fist marks all over my face.
There hasn’t been a night that I haven’t woken up in cold sweats—especially knowing he is out on bail. I can’t help but think that if he did this to me with so much to lose, what would he be willing to do to me now with nothing to lose?
When I get scared, I pray. I focus on positive things I can control as a way to stay grounded. I light incense and burn sage and take care of my plants. Anything to keep calm.
My survival means something. I find purpose now in wanting to help people, in wanting to let them know they are not alone. I’m still healing, but there’s no doubt in my mind I will get through this. I want others to know they can get through it, too.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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