MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A farmer who stopped by his house in the middle of his work shift ended up finding a missing 15-year-old girl from Alexandria.
She disappeared Aug. 8 from outside her mother’s home.
Police say a family acquaintance and two other men assaulted her in various locations for nearly one month.
She was able to escape after the three men left her alone in a foreclosed property in rural Grant County.
Tuesday, police arrested Thomas Barker, Joshua Holby and Steven Powers, for physically and sexually assaulting the teen.
“It’s usually quiet out here,” said the man who found the victim while standing outside his home. He asked we hide his identity, telling WCCO he left work Tuesday because he forgot something at his house. He said right before got back in his truck to return to work he saw something unusual in the grasslands on the back of his property. From hundreds of yards away he thought he saw a deer.
“She was up so I could see her but I couldn’t tell what it was,” he said.
He said once he realized it was a girl he started his truck to drive toward her, when suddenly she came running.
“When she come walking out of the grass I’m thinking oh my gosh, you got to be kidding me,” he said. “When I saw her face I knew right away.”
It was the teenager who went missing weeks earlier.
“It was just a great feeling, [I told her] ‘just get in the pickup, we’re going to help you now,'” he said.
Investigators said family acquaintence, 32-year-old Thomas Barker lured her into his car last month, taking her to his home in Carlos.
“Barker tied her up with zip ties and then he his roommate and friend over the next several weeks assaulted her and threatened her with weapons,” said Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels.
Police said they also took her to various cornfields and eventually a foreclosed home on Thompson Lake in Grant County.
Police said her three captors left her alone to grab lunch which is when she made her escape. She swam across the lake and onto the man’s property. She wasn’t wearing any pants or shoes, telling him she took them off in the water because they were making it hard for her to swim.
“Anybody can call 911, it’s just I was in the right place at the right time,” he said.
The man wanted to drive her away from the property but he said dispatchers told him to stay put. When they arrived another surprise happened before his eyes.
“I was getting her out of the pickup to put her in the deputy’s car and she says ‘There’s the car, there’s the car’,” he said describing how she spotted a vehicle belonging to one of the suspects driving right past the home.
“So one of the deputies chased him down.”
It was the first of three arrests made in the case, giving the father of three girls satisfaction only a parent would understand.
“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,” he said.
Police are hoping to recover her pants and shoes left behind in the lake.
They’re are also asking farmers in neighboring counties to check their cornfields for damage associated with cars driving through them.
At the Wednesday news conference, police described the victim as an “unbelievable young woman” with “a lot of strength.”