A 15-year-old girl who was abducted on her way home from school said a man forced her at knifepoint to get into his car, gave her pills and raped her before police found her running and crying Monday in West Valley City.
Within hours, police identified the alleged assailant, who had previously served prison time for an attack on a hotel maid that nearly cost the woman her life, according to Utah parole records. The 43-year-old man had been paroled in January 2015, despite his victim’s desire he not be released, and had been living with family in West Valley City.
On Monday, the abducted girl’s mother called police after the teen did not arrive home from Hunter High School that afternoon. Her family had tracked her cellphone to near 3600 South 6470 West, where they found the phone on the street, police wrote.
A residence near the abandoned phone had a doorbell camera that recorded the teen getting into a gray car that had pulled up near her at about 2:20 p.m., police wrote. About two hours later, officers saw the teenager crying and running through the neighborhood.
The girl said the man had waved at her while driving past, but she didn’t know who he was, police wrote.
She “said the man pulled up next to her and began acting like he was moving a box from the floor of the car into the back seat,” investigators wrote. Then, the girl told police, the man “showed her a large kitchen knife and threatened to kill her if she did not get into the car.”
The girl said she complied, and the man reclined the front passenger seat, forcing her to lie on the seat and on the floor of the car, police wrote. She said the man duct-taped her hands and feet together and put duct tape over her mouth, police wrote. The man took her cellphone, put on gloves and wiped the phone down with some sort of chemicals, according to the girl’s account to police. She didn’t see him get rid of the phone.
The girl said the man drove her to a house with a long carport, left her in the car for a few minutes and returned with three pills he said would “relax her,” police wrote. The girl said the man told her he would release her by 3 p.m. if she took the pills, police wrote.
The man ordered her into the home, where he pulled off the duct tape, filmed video of her and raped her, the girl told police.
The teen "said the man told her he had cancer and that he hoped God will forgive him,” police wrote. She said he also said he had not done anything like that before, police wrote.
According to the police report, the man changed his clothes, told the girl to get into the car and drove her to a bus stop, where he let her out and she took off running.
Police soon found a vehicle matching the one seen on the doorbell camera; cameras near the school also captured the vehicle circling before the girl disappeared, investigators wrote. The address of the registered owner was a house that matched the description given by the girl.
The girl identified items police found inside that house, where they encountered a relative of the vehicle’s owner who was wearing clothes that matched those the girl’s assailant was wearing when he let her go. He was taken into custody as a suspect.
The Salt Lake Tribune is not identifying him because he has not been charged in connection with the abduction. But criminal justice records indicate a troubling history of unprovoked violence when under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
The man had been living at that home with his father since his 2015 parole on an indeterminate life sentence he received for his conviction on a first-degree felony attempted murder charge.
Reached Tuesday, the suspect’s father extended his sympathies to the abducted girl.
"I have some sorrow and great condolence for the young woman and her family, perhaps more so than for my son," the father said.
According to information presented at his parole hearings, the suspect had been clean for at least six years before his release and had been an upstanding citizen of the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison where he completed numerous programs and classes, held privileged jobs and was a mentor to other inmates.
He grew up in Nevada, where he was a stand-out athlete in three sports, baseball being his favorite. He joined the U.S. Postal Service in Utah and was promoted to supervisory roles, according to parole records. His life began unraveling when he became addicted to prescription drugs, the suspect said at a parole hearing. He lost his job and faced criminal charges after he was caught stealing medications from the mail.
“I created a situation for myself I didn’t want to face,” he said. “I decided to take the easy way out.”
One day in 2008, he checked into a Salt Lake City hotel, where he wrote a suicide note and consumed large amounts of Xanax and wine “with the intention of never waking up.”
For reasons he was not able to explain at his parole hearings, however, he beckoned a maid, who brought linens into his room. Once she was inside, he slammed the door behind her and wrapped a towel around her neck until she lost consciousness.
He drove away to Mill Creek Canyon, where police found him covered in blood from numerous superficial cuts. According to parole records, he gave the police a phony account of having been attacked in a carjacking before confessing to the attack on the maid, repeatedly asking if she had survived.
“Doctors said it was amazing she lived,” the hearing officer said. “She suffered severe damage to her throat, displaced bones and was unconscious for over an hour."
There was no evidence of sexual assault in that attack. The victim, an immigrant who could not speak English, was afraid to be around men and she lost her job, according to parole records.
“I don’t understand why I did it. She obviously didn’t deserve that to happen to her,” the suspect told the hearing officer, choking back tears. "I feel absolutely terrible about what I’ve done. I have hoped and prayed for her recovery, her health and happiness...I would give anything to take that day back.
The hearing officer said he was concerned the suspect could harm another vulnerable person if he relapsed while free. Working in the man’s favor was his positive behavior in prison, where records indicate he pursued a self-improvement program. Letters of support described him as “a great guy.”
On Monday night, the man was in Salt Lake County jail, booked on suspicion of rape, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, distributing pornographic material, aggravated assault, threat of violence and tampering with evidence.
Counselors were on hand Tuesday at Hunter High School to support students as needed, according to Granite School District officials.
“We are grateful [the teen] is home and safe with family and would ask for privacy in their behalf during this difficult time,” they wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday. “Despite the fact that the suspect is now in custody, we will continue to have extra police officers at the school and on patrol to help students feel safe.”