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Police step up search for kidnapper

March 28, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Police still were searching Wednesday for the man who jumped into a minivan while the driver was stopped in traffic Tuesday, and who made the woman drive through four states for five hours before she escaped, police said.

A composite sketch of the man was released Thursday by West Virginia State Trooper Dean Olack, the lead investigator. The sketch was done by Lt. Dennis Streets, a Berkeley County deputy, who compiled it with help from the victim, a 26-year-old woman from Chambersburg, Pa.

The incident began around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, while the woman was stopped in traffic, waiting to turn left onto Interstate 81 in Chambersburg, Olack said.

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Although the doors of her teal 1998 Dodge minivan were locked, she had rolled down the windows because of warm weather. As she waited, a man reached in, unlocked the door, sat in the front passenger seat and demanded she start driving, Olack said.

The woman told police that once on the interstate, she started speeding, hoping she would be pulled over by police. At Marion, Pa., the man pulled a gun and demanded she get onto U.S. 11 south, police said.

From there, they drove to Mt. Jackson, a small town in Virginia. At a Burger King, the man demanded that the victim stop, and they went through the drive-through, police said. Restaurant employees corroborated that, but there were no surveillance cameras at the drive-through, Olack said.

After turning around and heading north again, the man demanded that the woman pull over at Exit 8, south of Martinsburg, because he needed to go to the bathroom, police said.

He put his legs out of the door, but remained in the passenger seat. The woman kicked him out of the van and drove off, stopping six miles later at the City Hospital exit, where she called police on her cell phone, Olack said.

When police arrived, the woman was shaken and upset, police said. "She couldn't even talk," Olack said. "It took her five minutes to calm down."

She told police that she had never seen the man before, Olack said. He said he has no reason to doubt the scenario.

"It's an odd situation when someone gets in a car and just drives for five hours," he said. But "I can't discredit my victim."

The woman had bruises and cuts on the right side of her face, which would be consistent with injuries inflicted by someone sitting on the passenger side, police said. She told police the man hit her, Olack said.

None of her money was taken and she was not sexually assaulted, Olack said.

Her abductor is described as a white man in his 30s with sandy brown hair and blue eyes, wearing black clothes, including gloves with holes at the knuckles. He had a diamond stud earring in his left ear and weighed about 170 pounds, with a large belly, police said. The woman could not gauge his height because he was sitting down through the entire incident, police said.

A police K-9 was taken Tuesday night to the spot where the man was kicked out of the car, but was not able to track a scent, police said. Olack said police were concerned that the man may have hijacked another car, but they have not received a report of such an incident.

Anyone with information can call the state police at 304-267-0001.

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