Hitchhiker reports being kidnapped in California, escaping in Montana, cops say

A woman at a Montana truck stop called police Monday to report that she had escaped a kidnapping in California that took her more than a thousand miles away, authorities said.

Officers responded to the Flying J truck stop in Rocker — about five miles west of Butte — on Monday around 10 p.m. to investigate the reported kidnapping, according to the Montana Standard. The woman involved was 31, ABC FOX Montana reports.

The woman told authorities that she had been walking on a road in Ventura, California, when a blue van pulled up to her and the driver asked if she wanted a lift, Butte-Silver Bow County Undersheriff George Skuletich said in an email to McClatchy news group on Tuesday.

The woman said she accepted the ride and got into the van, where she found another man as well, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The second man got out of the vehicle in Arizona.

The woman said she thought she and the driver were on the road for about two days and said he “kept her cell phone and possibly had a BB gun,” according to the Sheriff’s Office. The Standard reports that the woman told police the man’s BB gun “looked like a semi-automatic pistol.”

The woman said she “was able to exit the van and retrieved her cell phone as he was gassing the vehicle up” at the Montana truck stop, according to the Sheriff’s Office, and then she went up to a woman bystander and said she’d been kidnapped.

“The driver came back to the van and told her to get back inside, but the other woman helped her inside the store and called police,” The Standard reported.

Meanwhile, the man fled in his van, which had Montana plates, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The Standard reports that “police have asked authorities elsewhere in Montana to be on the lookout for a blue van with Montana plates and a back window broken out, Skuletich said Tuesday. It might have been headed toward Bozeman late Monday night.”

Authorities described the man as balding and 5-feet-6-inches tall with a gray beard.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.