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By MOLLY MOORHEAD, Times Staff Writer
Published December 7, 2007
HOLIDAY - The 49-year-old woman, who manages a McDonald's, thought she had locked her car.
About 7 a.m. Wednesday, she walked out of work to her Chevy Malibu, headed to the bank to make a deposit. She was expected back within the hour.
A red-haired man, unseen in the back seat, had another idea.
Over the next 12 hours, authorities say, the New Port Richey woman was abducted, threatened, robbed and left alone, too scared to call for help.
But they found her anyway, thanks to her cell phone.
Her name was not released Thursday because she might be the victim of a sex crime.
Here is what Pasco and Lake county authorities say happened:
The woman had driven just a few blocks before the man made his presence known. The ringing company cell phone drew his attention to the money bag.
Her co-workers at McDonald's, where she is known to be dedicated and reliable, were looking for her. The kidnapper shut the phone off. He didn't know about the one in the trunk, her personal cell phone. It was on.
She drove north up U.S. 19, out of Pasco County, where the highway turns more rural, then headed east toward Interstate 75.
Farther north she drove, as he threatened her and cut her with something.
In Lake County, she steered east, into the vast expanse of Ocala National Forest.
Nearly 150 miles from her McDonald's, she eased the car to a stop. They were in a wooded area off State Road 19, a desolate road with no street lights. Darkness was moving in. The man took the money and left, breaking the phone in the car before he fled.
The authorities, meanwhile, had been following them electronically. Cell technology told them which tower the phone was closest to.
Shortly after 7 p.m., Pasco authorities called Lake authorities, and in 18 minutes, she was found.
She was sitting in the driver's seat, with a T-shirt tied around her face, gagging her. But her hands and feet were free.
Maybe she was disoriented, or just too frightened to move.
Detectives say her story is credible. She was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital, and released early Thursday.
On Thursday evening, they hadn't found the kidnapper. He was described as a white male in his early 20s with dark red hair, a red beard, a pale, pock-marked complexion and light color eyes.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or 727 869-6245.
[Last modified December 6, 2007, 23:54:28]