August 29, 2014

Elyria
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Listen to the call: Cops look to 911 tape for clues in abduction

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Police are following leads — including what was said during a 911 call — in hopes of making an arrest of a man who allegedly kidnapped a woman at knifepoint early Wednesday in Elyria and forced her to drive to an unpopulated spot in North Ridgeville.

Police Lt. Greg Petek described the 911 call as “pretty disturbing and eerie.”

Listen to the 911 call:

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In the first 60 seconds of the call, the 43-year-old victim could be heard screaming for help shortly before a man’s voice said in a low, drawn-out voice: “She’s dead.”

The woman, who was not identified by police, continues to recover at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where Petek said she was in stable condition Wednesday.

“After she regained full consciousness, we were able to interview her,” Petek said.

The woman told police she was driving her white van westbound on Cleveland Street in Elyria early Wednesday. When she stopped at a traffic light, a black male jumped into her vehicle, which was apparently unlocked, and held a knife to her.

“He forced her to drive around, Petek said. “Eventually it led to where we found her.”

The kidnapping is believed to have occurred between 3 and 5:30 a.m. There were no apparent witnesses to the abduction, police said.

North Ridgeville police found the semiconscious woman near her van in an unpaved section of Harbor Drive off state Route 83 near an area of new housing construction.

Authorities initially believed the woman was not hurt but later determined that she was, Petek said. She suffered some type of head injury, from which she was bleeding, he said.

“When we found her, she was lying in mud outside her van,” Petek said. “Due to the rain, there were several inches of mud in the area. Her injuries were covered in mud.”

Police do not yet know if the woman was sexually assaulted.

“We’re still looking into that,” Petek said.

Police also don’t have a motive.

“We don’t know if it was robbery or sexual or what,” Petek said. “There was never any clear reason given by the victim so far.”

During the 8-minute-plus 911 call, the woman could be heard screaming for help as she said, “Please don’t let him do this to me. Help me, help me.”

A 911 operator makes repeated pleas for the woman to give her location, which were met with silence before a second, lower voice, believed to be that of the attacker, said, “She’s dead.”

The county’s 911 dispatch center sent North Ridgeville police to help her after pinpointing her location using the GPS unit in her phone.

While police were en route, nothing more was heard from the victim or her assailant despite the operator’s attempts to talk to her via the open line.

Despite the chilling nature of the 911 call and the assault itself, Petek cautioned area residents against being overly afraid.

“This is a very rare occurrence in this area,” Petek said. “People shouldn’t get panicked or fearful. We don’t believe we have a crazed maniac on the loose. People should always be careful and aware of their surroundings in general.”

Police were assisted by the Cleveland FBI office, which provided personnel and apparatus to check the van for physical evidence.

“They have equipment we don’t have,” Petek said. “We’re going over everything with a fine-tooth comb.”

Anyone who has any information about the case is asked to call police at (440) 327-2191.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.