Woman escapes after being kidnapped; suspect arrested

By: Elizabeth Dorsett Email
By: Elizabeth Dorsett Email

A kidnapping suspect is in police custody after police say the victim was able to escape at an interstate rest area.

A 20-year-old woman told police she was sitting in her car after pumping gas at the Speedway in Fort Wright, in Kenton County, around 10 p.m. Thursday, when a man approached her car and knocked on the window.

The woman says when she rolled down the window, the man pulled out a knife, then forced his way inside.

The woman says the man then told her to drive south on Interstate 75 toward Hazard.

The woman told police as she was driving, she was thinking of a plan to escape.

"Apparently while she's driving, she's formulating a plan, which is smart," Lt. Robert Swanigan of Georgetown Police said. "(She) Decided to pull into a gas station or rest area, and get out of the car, and that's exactly what she did."

As the car approached the I-75 southbound rest area in Scott County, the woman told police she made up an excuse to stop there.

As soon as she stopped, the woman says she jumped out of the car and ran for help. The rest area is more than 60 miles from the Speedway in Fort Wright.

The suspect, who police say is 34-year-old Jerry Smith, then ran off as well.

Police were called, and they spent the next hour searching for Smith.

Officers then received a call from workers at the northbound I-75 rest area about a suspicious person in the restroom.

"I come back in, 45 minutes later, doing rounds, and he's still in the same spot," Jonathan Brumley, who works at the rest area, said. "Hadn't moved or nothing. We called the cops, they came and arrested him. They say he was the same guy."

Police say Smith confessed to the kidnapping after being arrested.

He's now being held in the Scott County Detention Center, charged with kidnapping, terroristic threatening, first degree wanton endangerment, and alcohol intoxication.

Smith is a convicted sex offender out of Ohio.

He was just released from an Ohio prison last month, after serving a ten year sentence for rape, kidnapping, and robbery.

Fort Wright Police say the young Independence woman involved is extremely lucky, given his record.

"Once the abduction occurred, this is about as good an outcome as expected;" explained Chief Daniel Kreinest of the Fort Wright Police Department. "Not having the victim injured or assaulted... is about as good as it's going to get."

Smith had been living in a halfway house in Cincinnati since being released from prison.

Those charges stem from a hostage situation at a Speedway in Ironton, Ohio. In that case in December of 2000, police say Smith locked the front door of the gas station, forced the attendant into the office and raped her. Court records show he was on probation for other crimes at the time.

A warrant for Smith's arrest was in the works yesterday well before he allegedly car-jacked the woman, for failing to check in at the half-way house at the designated time.

Police say Smith wanted to go to Hazard to see family members that live there.

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