Entries in Kidnapping (73)


Kidnap Survivors Explain What Kept Them From Attempting to Escape

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As investigators work to piece together the last decade of the lives of three women held captive, one question many want to know is, was there ever a chance for Amanda Berry, Michele Knight and Amanda Dejesus to escape much earlier than they did?

Berry, 27, DeJesus, 23, and Knight, 32, are believed to have been held captive by three brothers in a small, modest home only miles from their families, according to authorities. Berry ended the nightmare Monday when she escaped by breaking through a locked door with the help of a passing neighbor.

But if that was the first attempt to escape while being held captive, it would follow a common thread of other surviving kidnap victims who decided to stay put, remain silent for a long period of time and in some cases, have a personal relationship with the abductor.

"The common modus operandi of a kidnapper or kidnappers is to create an extraordinary amount of fear that they have a capacity either to kill the abductee or to kill their family," forensic psychiatrist Dr. Michael Welner said Wednesday on ABC’s Good Morning America.

"Very quickly after the abduction the captor will do a variety of things physically, sexually to dehumanize the victim and it's the dehumanization that's the beginning of the process where a person loses their identity," he said.

That's exactly what happened to Shawn Hornbeck, who was abducted when he was 11 years old as he rode his bike in a St. Louis suburb in October 2002. He was taken by Michael Devlin 60 miles from home.

When Devlin tried to strangle the boy, Hornbeck promised to never escape or tell anyone the truth about his captor, who is currently serving multiple life sentences. Hornbeck remained in Devlin's custody until police found him in January 2007.

"He felt somewhat guilty that he never could get away. I just had to reassure him that everything he did was right," Hornbeck's parents Pam and Craig Akers said in a 2009 interview with ABC News.

Jaycee Dugard, who was held captive for 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido, told ABC News' Diane Sawyer last year that her captor's grip was so strong, she never attempted to flee.

"The mind manipulation plus the physical abuse I suffered, there was no leaving," Dugard said.

Dugard said that even when the doors were unlocked, she never tried to run. "Something always held me back," she said. "It was like I had still had those handcuffs on."

While in captivity Dugard gave birth to two daughters fathered by her abductor. Dugard, now 22, said she felt guilty for bonding with Garrido.

In the case of the three Cleveland women, one of them, Amanda Berry, also gave birth in the years she was held captive. Police believe one of the three men arrested for the women's abduction is likely the father of Berry's 6-year-old girl daughter, Jocelyn.

"When you have multiple people involved, not only captors, but captives, the prime mover creates a system in which people manipulate each other," Welner said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the child was part of that, [where] a threat to a helpless child is used to leverage continued compliance."

At age 14, Elizabeth Smart was held hostage in 2002 for nine months by Brian David Mitchell. Smart says she was also too afraid to try and escape.

"[It] just feels like the whole world is crushing down around you," Smart said in an interview with ABC News in 2011.

Welner was one of the psychiatrists who examined Smart's kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell. Just like the women in Cleveland, Smart was hidden in seemingly plain view while in captivity, something Welner says is common in abduction cases.

"If that person is manipulative enough to come up with a system to inspire fear and dehumanization...[then] fooling and manipulating ignorant neighbors, neighbors who just wouldn't expect something like that, is easy," he said.

"It's easy to understand how Brian David Mitchell was looking right at a police officer and Elizabeth Smart was right there in a library and the police officer says, 'Are you Elizabeth Smart?,' and she remains silent and Brian David Mitchell says, 'You can't lift that veil because we're Muslim,'" he said.

For the three women in Cleveland, as with Duggard and Smart and Hornbeck before them, even though they are free, their ordeal is not over, according to Welner. They next face the arduous and emotional task of recounting their experience to investigators.

"It's very painful for the victims and there's no way around it. You must be heard," Welner said. "You'll assist law enforcement and you'll lock people up and you will make sure they never hurt others again. ...You will discourage others from following in their footsteps, knowing eventually they will be caught and the victim will be heard."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


'Extreme Kidnapping' Is No Risk-Free Thrill

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Being pulled out of a car at gunpoint by masked men while heavy metal music plays in the background would be a nightmarish experience for most people.

Not so for the increasing number of people who pay hundreds of dollars to experience it.

“It’s more or less a thrill entertainment of a kidnapping scenario,” said Shanel Hill, a professional abductor for the Detroit-based company called Extreme Kidnapping.

For about $500, you can get the four-hour “econo-kidnapping” package, or spend thousands of dollars for more deluxe packages that can run a full day.

“Some people come to us because they want to lose control,” Hill said.

The company’s founder, Adam Thick, says he was inspired to start the company nearly a decade ago by The Game, the 1997 movie starring Michael Douglas as a wealthy investment banker given the gift of a “game” that brings excitement into his life.

Law enforcement experts, however, say the excitement created by the all-too-real kidnappings could create real-life danger.

An alleged abduction in New York City made headlines earlier this month as police investigated whether the incident – in which a man with a plastic bag over his head and another wearing a mask forced a woman into a minivan at gunpoint – was a hoax staged to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It was.

“What you’ve done is create a situation where both the police, the victims and the fake bad guy could be harmed,” ABC News analyst and former FBI special agent Brad Garrett said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Missouri Police Find Kidnapped Toddler Harmony Blue Safe, Mo.) -- Police in Springfield, Mo., said Saturday night they have found a 13-month-old girl who was the subject of an Amber Alert after she was abducted from a grocery store parking lot earlier in the day.

Harmony Blue and her 4-year-old brother were left inside a 2002 gray Nissan Maxima while their father ran into the grocery store, Springfield police said in a news release.

A white woman with blonde hair was then seen taking off in the vehicle with the children.  The suspect is not believed to have any relation to the family, authorities said.

The 4-year-old boy was dropped off later in the afternoon and was reunited with his father.

Several hours later police announced they had also found Harmony Blue, but aside from saying that she was safe and back with her family, they gave no other details.

They said they were still investigating to determine who was responsible for the girl’s kidnapping.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Alabama Standoff: Authorities Maintaining 'Open Line of Communication' with Hostage Suspect

WDHN(MIDLAND CITY, Ala.) -- Alabama police have an "open line of communication" with the retired Alabama trucker who took a 5-year-old autistic boy hostage from a school bus and was holding him in his underground bunker.

"Through our communication, we've been able to -- he's told us that he has electric heaters and some blankets inside, that he's taking care of [the boy]," Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson said on Saturday.

Olson said he was "limited" in what new information that he could provide, but expressed gratitude for the growing concern regarding the condition of the child.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Alabama Hostage Suspect Had Court Date Day After Kidnapping

iStockphoto/Thinkstock (file photo)(MIDLAND CITY, Ala.) -- The retired Alabama trucker who shot a school bus driver and is now holding a kindergarten student in an underground bunker was scheduled to be in court this past Wednesday to answer for allegedly shooting at his neighbors in a dispute over a damaged speed bump.

Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, has been holed up in a 6 by 8 foot bunker, four feet underground with a 5-year-old autistic boy named Ethan since Tuesday, when he boarded a school bus and asked for two 6- to 8-year-old boys.  School bus driver Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, was shot several times by Dykes, and died trying to protect the children.

Police said that they do not think that Dykes had any connection to Ethan, and that SWAT teams and police are negotiating with Dykes.

"I could tell you that negotiators continue to communicate with the suspect and that there's no reason to believe the child has been harmed," Sheriff Wally Olson said late Thursday.

As the underground standoff moved into its fourth day, tensions grew in this small community near Midland City, Ala., which is now enveloped by SWAT teams and police.

"That's an innocent kid.  Let him go back to his parents, he's crying for his parents and his grandparents and he does not know what's going on," Midland City Mayor Virgil Skipper told ABC News.  "Let this kid go."

Neighbor Jimmy Davis said that he has seen the bunker where Dykes has been known to hunker down for up to eight days.

"He's got steps made out of cinder blocks going down to it, Davis said.  "It's lined with those red bricks all in it."

Police say he may have enough supplies to last him weeks.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Alleged Bus Driver Shooter Remains Holed Up with Boy in Ala. Bunker

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MIDLAND CITY, Ala.) -- A 5-year-old boy, who police in Dale County, Ala., say was abducted by a man who killed a school bus driver, remains holed up with the suspected kidnapper in an underground bunker as of early Thursday morning.

Law enforcement authorities are keeping a close watch on the bunker, where reports are that the child is unharmed and watching TV.

The suspect has been identified as Jimmy Lee Dykes, who was due to appear in court Wednesday on charges that he pointed a gun at people during a disagreement over a speed bump.

According to police, the boy was among a group of children riding a school bus in the rural Alabama community Tuesday afternoon when Dykes, who has been described as an anti-government survivalist, forced his way onto the vehicle at a stop.

Reports are that Dykes said he wanted two boys for an undisclosed reason when bus driver Charles Albert Poland tried to intercept the suspect.  It was then that Dykes allegedly fired four shots at Poland, killing him.

Dykes then took the 5-year-old to the homemade bunker he had constructed on his property, authorities said.

Police are tight-lipped about the situation and what, if any, demands Dykes has made in order to free the boy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Police Release 911 Call of NJ Teen Accused of Faking Kidnapping

Obtained by ABC(NEW YORK) -- New Jersey State Police have released the 911 call of a teen who said she was abducted from her home in September by a 28-year-old black man.

Kara Alongi, 16, sent an ominous tweet on Sept. 30, saying, "There is someone in my house, call 911."

The tweet sparked national attention on Twitter, prompting a search for the missing teen after authorities were flooded with phone calls from around the country.  The tweet was retweeted more than 32,000 times.

Two days after the tweet, police found Alongi at a rest stop along the New Jersey Turnpike while she was on the phone with a 911 operator.  She voluntarily left her home in Clark, N.J., and was not abducted, officials say.

Her family declined to comment and police have not responded to requests for comment on whether they will charge the teen for making the alleged fake call.

In the Oct. 2 call, Alongi told a 911 operator that she was placed in a taxi cab by someone she described as a 28-year-old black man who entered her house.

"A few days ago I was inside and some guy came and made me go. ... I was in my house and some guy came in and told me that I had to do all this stuff.  I don't know his name, but he was black and he said he was, like, 28," Alongi told the 911 operator.

The operator asked Alongi to explain how she was forced out of her home.

"He told me I had to go into a cab and I had to meet someone, but I don't remember where I was," Alongi responded.

Alongi said the cab took her to the train station and was told by her abductor to get on a bus, but she didn't know whether the man got on the bus after her.

"There was a cab at my house and I went in and then I went into the train station and then I don't remember where I was. ... And I woke up today in, I don't know, somewhere, it was like the country. … And now I'm here," she said.

The call ends when a New Jersey State Trooper arrives at a Burger King to pick up Alongi, who was unharmed.

Police have not said why they think Alongi made up the story, but they believe that the teen went to the train station alone.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Texas Girl Allegedly Kidnapped by Mother Found Safe

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- An 11-year-old Texas girl who was the subject of an Amber Alert after police said she was was abducted by her mother, has been found safe, and her mother is in custody.

A Child Protective Services spokesperson in Trinity County told ABC News affiliate KTRK-TV in Houston that Savannah Hurley was found there Tuesday afternoon.  No other details were immediately avaiable.

"It was a child custody thing," Trinity County Chief Deputy Billy Patton told ABC News earlier Tuesday.  "They were going to remove the kid from the mother and the grandmother got involved."

Patton said that when authorities and Child Protective Services arrived at the house of the girl's mother, Shelly Jean Hurley, 46, in The Woodlands, Texas, to take Savannah, the little girl was not there.

"The mother jumped in a car and headed to the grandmother's house," Patton said.  "The grandmother gave the child to the mother and they were gone.  They left and we had no idea which direction they went in."

Patton would not say why CPS was taking Savannah away from her mother.  Savannah's maternal grandmother is in custody for allegedly interfering with child custody.

Hurley took off with Savannah in a white Ford pickup truck, but police found that car and said that Hurley had switched to a 1996 maroon Subaru Legacy station wagon with an Alabama license plate.

When police located the Legacy in Mesquite, just outside Dallas, neither Savannah nor her mother were found there.

Investigators said they believe the duo initially fled to The Woodlands area and started heading north, according to KTRK.  They said they thought Hurley might have been planning to eventually take Savannah to Florida.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Murdered Barista Whitney Heichel Was Raped, Shot Several Times

Clint Heichel(GRESHAM, Ore.) -- The young Oregon barista Whitney Heichel. who vanished on her way to her job at a Starbucks, was sexually assaulted before she was shot "multiple" times, according to charges filed Monday against the man arrested in her death.

Jonathan Holt, 24, a neighbor of Heichel and a member of the same Jehovah's Witness church, appeared via closed-circuit television in a Clackamas County court wearing a suicide smock.

He reportedly cried throughout the arraignment, simply answering "yes" to the judge's questions.

Holt was charged with seven counts of kidnap, robbery, sodomy and murder. His case will soon be presented in a grand jury, and additional charges may be filed. If convicted of the most serious counts he could face the death penalty.

He did not enter a plea at Monday's hearing and will continue to be held at a county jail without bail.

"The cause was multiple gunshot wounds and the manner was homicide," Dr. Christopher Young of the Multnomah County Medical Examiner's Office told ABC News.

The search for the missing 21-year-old woman came to a grim conclusion Friday night when police found her body and arrested a neighbor in connection with her death.

Police found Heichel's body on Larch Mountain, a 40-minute drive up winding roads from her home in Gresham, Ore.

They arrested Jonathan Holt, 24, an acquaintance and neighbor, after a series of interviews reportedly didn't add up and they found his fingerprints and DNA in her recovered car.

Heichel's devastated husband said that he had "bet on forever" with his wife of less than two years and has now been left wondering why anyone would hurt her.

"She's just very kind and loved everybody," Clint Heichel told ABC News in an exclusive interview. "She didn't do anything to deserve this. It's just...why? That's the only question. Why?"

Clint Heichel said that the married Holt lived in his apartment complex, and they attended the same church. Heichel said that he and his wife cared for the Holts' plants and cats when they were away. Two weeks ago, Heichel helped Holt jump-start his motorcycle.

Heichel is grieving the loss of his wife and the future they had planned together.

"It's very difficult, we only had a year and nine months together and when you get married you bet on forever," he said. "She was just a beautiful little person, just full of love, and she was just a ray of light to everybody."

Police have not reported a motive for the killing and have released few details about when Holt may have approached Whitney Heichel or if he had been stalking her.

Heichel was reported missing on Tuesday morning when she did not show up for work at Starbucks, which was just a five-minute drive from her home. Shortly after, her Ford Explorer was found abandoned in a Walmart parking lot with its passenger-side window shattered.

Her husband reported her missing at 10 a.m., about two and a half hours after she was supposed to report for work.

Heichel's bank card had been used to get gas at two different gas stations within eight minutes, her husband said, and police had been studying a surveillance video from the first station.

A man told police he recognized Heichel sitting in the passenger seat of her car at another station shortly before 9:30 a.m., but said a man was driving.

Children playing outside an apartment building found Heichel's phone in some bushes on Thursday, and their parents knew it was Heichel's immediately because the screensaver showed her picture. It also had text messages asking if she was OK.

Earlier in the week, a search team found tire tracks, broken glass and Heichel's license plate on Larch Mountain, where they would later find her body.

Whitney Heichel's family said that in spite of their profound loss, the support they had received from their community has convinced them that there are "many good people."

"The loving concern from ones that didn't even know Whitney or her family has deeply touched our hearts," Heichel's family said in a statement. "The kind expressions, and support from perfect strangers has confirmed to us that there is much good in people.... And though, while this event in our lives is tragic, we saw the positive effects it has had on this community."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Baby Gabriel's Mother Used Him as a Pawn in Custody Battle, Said Prosecutors

Comstock/Thinkstock(TEMPE, Ariz.) -- Nearly three years after 8-month-old Gabriel Johnson was reported missing in San Antonio, Texas, prosecutors say his mother used him as a pawn against his biological father because she was angry at him and wanted to hurt him in the aftermath of their relationship.

Closing arguments were heard on Tuesday in the trial of baby Gabriel's mother, Elizabeth Johnson, 26, in Superior Court of Maricopa County in Arizona. Johnson has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, custodial interference and conspiracy in the December 2009 disappearance of her son.

Johnson had been embroiled in a custody battle with Gabriel's biological father, Logan McQueary. Johnson had wanted to put their son up for adoption, but McQueary did not.

While she was fighting with McQueary over custody of their son, Johnson left Tempe, Ariz., with Gabriel and traveled to San Antonio, Texas, on Dec. 18, 2009. Johnson failed to bring Gabriel back to visit with McQueary two days later, violating a court custody order.

Gabriel was last seen with his mother on Dec. 26, 2009. The following day, Johnson sent text messages to McQueary saying she had killed him.

Johnson listened tearfully in court as prosecutor Angela Andrews read portions of the transcript of the recorded conversation Johnson had with McQueary after she told him she killed Gabriel.

Johnson was recorded telling McQueary that she suffocated their son with a towel until he turned blue. She said she then put his body in a diaper bag and put the bag in the trash.

Later, Johnson told authorities she gave Gabriel to a couple she met in a park in San Antonio.

In his closing statements, Johnson's attorney, Marc Victor, said he disagrees that what Johnson did could be characterized as kidnapping.

Victor said he did not call witnesses because the state did not present a convincing case that Johnson was guilty of kidnapping. He instead said the lawsuit was an example of "an ugly custody interference case."

Victor had filed a motion to dismiss Johnson's kidnapping charge on Oct. 12, but Superior Court Judge Joseph Kreamer denied it.

Johnson did not take the stand during the trial. She cannot be tried for murder in Arizona since Gabriel was last seen in Texas.

Gabriel Johnson has still not been found. Police searched a Texas landfill in February 2010 for the child's body, but to no avail. His third birthday was in May.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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