September 07, 2017 05:39 AM
Police allege an acquaintance kidnapped a 15-year-old Alexandria girl, and he and two others repeatedly physically and sexually assaulted her over 29 days of captivity before she was able to escape and find help Tuesday.
Alexandria police say the girl was found running through a field in Grant County near Thompson Lake at around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Because police allege she was the victim of sexual assault, KSTP will no longer be using her name or photo.
The man who located his teen said he recognized the teen's face right away. The man asked his name not be used.
"I said get in the pick up, I'm going to call 911," he said.
The man said the teen was without shoes and soaking wet from swimming.
"I was more overwhelmed than anything that she was still with us and OK," he said.
Alexandria Police Chief Richard Wyffels said she had been left alone by 32-year-old Thomas Barker of Carlos and the two other men for the first time since she was abducted on August 8, and used the opportunity to run for safety - eventually swimming across part of Thompson Lake.
Barker and the other two men arrested in connection to her disappearance - 20-year-old Steven Powers of Mankato and 31-year-old Joshua Holby of Carlos - were identified by authorities at a press conference Tuesday in Alexandria.
The three are being held in the Douglas County Jail on probable cause of kidnapping, false imprisonment and assault. A release from Alexandria police said specific charges would be determined by the Douglas County Attorney's Office.
Police allege Barker approached the girl outside her home around 11 p.m. on Aug. 8 and told her he needed help with a situation. Since she knew Barker, police said she agreed to assist and entered his vehicle.
When they got to Barker's residence, authorities allege he restrained the teenager with zip ties, assaulted her and threatened her with weapons.
"He tricked her," Wyffels said. "He asked her to help him with a family situation, and (she) was already familiar with some of the other family members.
"She was being honest and trusting."
Police allege Barker kept her at the Carlos residence which he shares with Holby. Wyffels said Powers came up for a visit weeks into the situation and became part of the process.
Authorities say starting late last week, the three men took her from the residence to various locations, including a corn field and a foreclosed property in Grant County. But Tuesday, police say they left her alone to travel to a nearby town for lunch.
She broke away, knocking on several doors before swimming across part of the lake to locate a residence where help could be found. She eventually identified herself to a local resident and asked the man to call 911.
A neighbor who lived near the location where the suspects took the teen said she was shocked the teen was so close to her home.
"You live in this community you just think it will never happen here," Amber Nelson said.
Wyffels credited the attention her case received with helping build awareness that led to a positive resolution.
"Before she even said any words (to the man who found her), he already knew what this story was all about," Wyffels said.
Wyffels said she has been safely reunited with her family, and asked people respect their privacy.
"This is a happy ending, but the work is not done," he said. "The family is going to need a lot of privacy and a lot of community support to carry on."
Updated: September 07, 2017 05:39 AM
Created: September 06, 2017 02:32 PM
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