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GPS helped trace abducted woman

A woman snatched off a street in Philadelphia was rescued with the help of a GPS device that had been installed on the suspect's car by a dealer in case the vehicle needed to be repossessed.

Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, 22, was resting at her mother's home after a three-day ordeal which ended in Maryland yesterday when federal agents surrounded the car and took her alleged abductor into custody.

Delvin Barnes, 37, was being held in jail on unrelated charges that he abducted and attempted to kill a 16-year-old Virginia girl.

Law enforcement officials got their big break in the Philadelphia case when they read the used-car dealer's name on a traffic-camera image of Barnes's car and asked the dealership to turn on the GPS unit, said Captain Jayson Crawley of a sheriff's office in Virginia.

He said the dealership sells to customers with poor credit and routinely puts GPS devices on its vehicles so they can be easily located and repossessed if the owners fall behind on the payments.

"We called the dealership and within five minutes they had the location," Capt Crawley said.

It was the latest arrest made possible by the technology.

Ms Freeland-Gaither had been seen on surveillance video being grabbed by a man and pulled towards a car in Philadelphia on Sunday night as she struggled to get away.

In the following days, police and federal authorities released a stream of images from CCTV cameras in Maryland and from a Philadelphia supermarket.

Police did not reveal a motive for the kidnapping.

Barnes has a long and violent criminal history, serving eight years in prison for a 2005 assault on his estranged wife in Philadelphia.

He is also charged with abducting a teenage girl in Virginia last month. The girl told police she was hit on the head with a shovel, put in the boot of a car and taken to Barnes's home.

Barnes later took the girl outside, doused her with petrol, asked her how she wanted to die and began digging a hole, according to Capt Crawley. She managed to escape and made it to a nearby business.

A Maryland judge ordered Barnes to be sent to Virginia following a hearing at which the suspect, appearing by video, answered the judge's questions with "Yes, sir" and "No, sir." He did not have an attorney with him.

No immediate charges were filed in the Philadelphia case.

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents found his vehicle, its rear window kicked out, on a road in Pennsylvania, with Barnes and Ms Freeland-Gaither inside. A witness to her abduction had said she kicked out some of the car's windows before it sped off.

Agents used their cars to box the vehicle in, then freed Ms Freeland-Gaither, said Tim Jones, ATF agent in charge in Maryland. She was taken to hospital.

Her mother, Keisha Gaither, thanked police and the community for their support. She said she had talked to her distraught daughter by phone.

"She was very upset. She was crying. She just was asking for me, to tell me she loved me, she missed me, to come get her," she said.


From Belfast Telegraph