Police in Minnesota are hailing a 15-year-old girl for her bravery after they say she survived a harrowing month-long ordeal during which she was repeatedly raped and beaten by her captors, until she finally escaped by swimming across a lake to safety.
Authorities in Alexandria shared details of the victim’s kidnapping and rescue on Wednesday, also revealing that the girl played a key role in helping police capture her suspected kidnappers, one of whom was a family acquaintance.
DailyMail.com is not naming the 15-year-old girl or showing her face because she is now believed to be the victim of multiple sexual assaults.
The high-schooler was found on Tuesday injured but alive in rural Grant County, where she ended up after running away from her suspected abductors.
The Alexandria Police Department announced on its Facebook page that the girl, who had been missing since August 8, had been located about 40 miles from her home in Alexandria.
During a press conference held Wednesday afternoon, police revealed that they have arrested 32-year-old Thomas Barker; Steven Powers, 20, and Joshua Holby, 31, suspected of abducting, raping and torturing the girl for 29 days.
Following her rescue, the 15-year-old was taken to Douglas County Hospital to be treated for ‘minor injuries’ and has since been reunited with her family.
Speaking to reporters, Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels said suspect Thomas Barker was a family acquaintance of the victim’s and lured her into his car on the night of August 8 by approaching her outside her home and asking her to help with a family situation.
The girl agreed to assist him, got into his car and the two headed to the man’s home in Carlos, police said.
Upon arrival, Wyffels said Barker restrained the girl’s hands with zip ties, repeatedly assaulted her and threatened her with weapons.
It is claimed Holby also assaulted the 15-year-old, as did Powers about two weeks into what the chief described as the victim’s ‘nightmare’.
In response to a reporter’s question, the police chief clarified that the girl ‘was both physically assaulted and sexually assaulted.’
Some of the attacks took place inside a closet, Wyffels said, adding that the three suspects fed the girl Taco Bell meals and other fast food.
Last week, the trio of suspects allegedly drove the girl from one location to another, including a cornfield and a foreclosed property in Grant County.
Then on Tuesday, the men headed to a nearby town for lunch, leaving her unattended for the first time since her abduction.
The 15-year-old used the opportunity to escape. She tried knocking on several doors before swimming across a section of Thompson Lake, then continued on foot to a nearby community, where she flagged down a farmer and asked him to call 911.
While she was sitting in the Good Samaritan’s car, awaiting police to arrive, she spotted Steven Powers drive by and alerted the man, who helped police track down that suspect, reported Voice of Alexandria.
The teen later assisted police in locating the other two men, and all three were taken into custody. Barker, Powers and Holby are currently being held in the county jail on probable cause for kidnapping to terrorize or commit great bodily harm, criminal sexual conduct and false imprisonment.
According to Chief Wyffels, none of the suspects said why they targeted the 15-year-old.
The farmer who helped the teenage girl spoke to the station WCCO on the condition of anonymity, saying that he happened to be next to his house in Grant County on Tuesday because he forgot something at home and left work to retrieve it.
He was getting ready to head back to work when he spotted something in the grass behind the property, which turned out to be a girl. He says he recognized her at once as the missing teen from news reports and offered to take her to safety.
‘It was just a great feeling,’ said the Good Samaritan, who has three daughters of his own. ‘[I told her] “just get in the pickup, we’re going to help you now.”’
He added, ‘It was like somebody shined a big beam of light on me yesterday for some reason and, I don’t know, I was kind of on a high all day long yesterday.’
The girl’s safe return came a day after an anonymous donor added $5,000 to a $2,000 reward for information leading to her safe return.
On Tuesday evening, her mother shared a photo taken after she was reunited with her daughter.
It shows the 15-year-old wrapped in a blue blanket, standing next to her mother with a slight smile on her face.
The mom also posted an update on a Facebook group dedicated to finding her daughter, saying that the 15-year-old has been found and is safe.
‘Please be respectful I will not be answering any messages or calls and do not post rumors (the girl) and I will not tolerate that,’ she wrote.
In a follow-up post, the parent thanked law enforcement officials for staying on top of the missing person case and even working on their days off to help bring her daughter home.
The mother reiterated her request for privacy, writing that their family had been apart for four weeks and need their space.
‘God answers prayers!’ she said. ‘I am so damn proud of her [victim] and so happy to have her home safe with us. Thank you all so much.’
The teen was last seen at her home in the 200 block of McKay Avenue North in Alexandria on August 8 at around 10.30pm.
The 5-foot-1, 110-pound girl had spent the day boating with neighbors, but returned home with a migraine headache, reported NBC News.
Her mother told Dateline last month that she saw her daughter laying on the couch in their mobile home before she went out that night. When she returned, the girl was no where to be found, but her cellphone was left behind.
Police are now trying to identify the specific cornfields through which the suspects drove with the kidnapped girl. They are also hoping to locate her missing shoes and pants, which were lost as she swam across the lake for help.
SOURCE: Daily Mail – Snejana Farberov