WASHINGTON PARK — A 19-year-old woman who had been reported missing since April 2010 escaped captivity from the North Kingshighway home where she had been held for more than two years.
The alleged abductor, a 24-year-old Washington Park man, and his mother were arrested after police stormed the residence at 1425 N. Kingshighway about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Police declined to name the suspects, pending charges.
Police at the scene called it a bizarre situation. The unidentified St. Louis woman was essentially held as a sex slave, police said.
When she escaped Tuesday, she reported the incident to the Washington Park Police Department and told them a child she had while in captivity was still inside the home.
Police Chief David Clark said police believe the suspect is the father of the child. He is facing a number of charges, and police are hopeful charges will be filed Friday. On Thursday night, the suspect and his mother were in a Washington Park jail cell.
About 25 members of a SWAT team swarmed the home and also recovered a 2-year-old child. They and several other officers with the Washington Park and the Fairview Heights police departments secured the scene and went into action.
The toddler, whose identity was not released, was not hurt. A 16-year-old boy who was living in the home was brought out. He was still wearing his school uniform, a white polo shirt and beige khaki pants. Police allowed him to sit on the bumper of one of the armored trucks as they talked to him. He and the toddler were later turned over to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Clark said.
The SWAT team rolled into the village with three huge armored trucks; one rolled into the front yard, it appeared to make sure no one got out. A man inside operated the periscope on the truck. Other members stood guard around the home. They were dressed in full camouflage gear, hoods, and masks. Some wore Army-green hard hats. They carried large weapons.
A MedStar ambulance and a supervisor car stood by in case anyone needed emergency medical attention. But there were no injuries.
The large police presence and flashing red and blue lights from police cars brought a huge crowd, which stood gawking on both sides of the streets. Many wondered aloud what was going on. When they could get few answers, some grew frustrated from not knowing what was going on.
Police blocked north Kingshighway from Westmoreland to Warren as they did their work. No one talked to the crowd. They just worked,
Back and forth, in and out of the house they went. At one point, they closed the front door and remained behind closed doors for several minutes. The gray blinds in the windows shielded anyone from looking inside.
The man was arrested at the scene. Police had him sitting on a curb in front of the house while they continued searching. Shortly before 6 p.m., the suspect's mother was brought out of the home in handcuffs and placed into a waiting police car.
Clark said its appear the mother assisted in the crime. But he said police were still investigating the case. The victim is from St. Louis, and she was 15 when she was taken into captivity, police said. Considering the ordeal that she had been through, Clark said she seemed to be OK.
She was listed as a missing or runaway juvenile by St. Louis police on April 6, 2010, Clark said. Clark declined to say whether police knew where or how the victim and the suspect met.
The victim told police she was beaten and sexually assaulted every day while she was in captivity. While trying to escape, the suspect forced her back into the home at gunpoint, Clark said.
The victim's relatives helped her escape and she later went to police, Clark said.
When the SWAT team drove off, Washington Park investigators took over the scene. Shortly thereafter, they emerged carrying two safes and Clark later confirmed that some drugs were also taken from the residence.
He said the police were still conducting their investigation. And they were still inside the residence about 8:30 p.m.
Washington Park Mayor James Jones stood in the crowd observing the raid. Asked what he thought, he said he didn't know a lot, but "it appears to be a very sad situation."
Clark was overheard saying to another officer, who agreed with him, that the living conditions inside were deplorable.
When asked by a reporter whether police were going to request that the property be condemned, Clark said yes. No one in the immediate area, including next-door neighbors, seemed to know the people who lived there. The house is next door to a Mobil gas station and across the street from a restaurant and catering business. Some people said they saw the mother and her son come and go sometimes, but they never thought anything as disturbing as what happened to the victim could have possibly been going on in that house.
Connie Hunt, a next-door neighbor, said she didn't really know her neighbors but said the woman "was always really nice when she saw her."
"She always spoke," Hunt said.
When she learned allegedly took place next door, she appeared to be shocked.
"You never know what can go on right next door," she said.
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at email@example.com or 239-2503.