LEADINGTON — Police are still searching for a suspect after a 300-pound football player said he was abducted at gunpoint and forced to drive more than 200 miles before intentionally crashing his truck to get away.
The eastern Missouri town of Leadington was still buzzing about the bizarre case on Thursday, three days after 17-year-old Kory Wakefield told police he was abducted. No arrests have been made.
The incident began at 7:21 a.m. Monday, moments after Wakefield, who plays football at Central High School, walked out of his house to head for school. Suddenly, a man walked up, pulled out a gun and demanded that Wakefield drive him to Columbia, Wakefield told authorities. The man later changed the destination to Kirksville.
Wakefield used his cell phone to send the text message "HLP" to his girlfriend, Katelyn Neff. She thought Wakefield had hit the wrong letters.
"I texted back, ‘What?'" she said. "Moments later, another text message read, "H-E-L-P."
"I knew something was wrong, because Kory would never ever joke like that," Neff said.
Neff went to Wakefield's home and told his family. Police were contacted. The school had said the teen's truck wasn't in the parking lot.
"Then we all freaked out," said Wakefield's aunt, Krystal Kaiser.
An alert went out.
Meanwhile, Wakefield's football teammates left school to help the family search.
Calls to Wakefield's cell phone went straight to voice mail until about 1:30 p.m., when Kaiser's call went through. Wakefield answered, breathing hard and sounding frightened.
"‘Help! Help me!' That's all he could say," Kaiser said. "I said, ‘Stay on the phone and tell me your location.'"
But before he could tell her a location, the two lost cell phone reception. Meanwhile, Wakefield called his father, Sonny, who learned the teen was at a wildlife area in Macon County.
Sonny Wakefield told his son to call 911. He did, and police picked him up.
That's when Wakefield told Macon County Sheriff Robert Dawson what happened. He said the gunman ordered him to pull into a wildlife area near Atlanta, Mo., more than 200 miles north of Leadington. Fearing he would be killed in the secluded area, Wakefield spotted a pile of logs and rammed the truck intentionally into the pile.
"It knocked both of them out," said Wakefield's mother, Katrina Wakefield. "They both hit their heads on the windshield and dashboard."
Wakefield told police that when he came to, he saw another man prying open the passenger door to rescue the abductor. Wakefield pretended to remain unconscious until the men drove off, he said. It wasn't clear how the alleged accomplice ended up at the wildlife area.
Police processed Wakefield's truck for fingerprints, but found none other than Wakefield's fingerprints, Dawson said.
The suspect was described as a 35 to 40 year old, 5 foot 5 with reddish-brown hair pulled into a ponytail.