Three men were charged Thursday with kidnapping a 15-year-old Alexandria girl and holding her captive for 29 days as they performed numerous assaults ranging from rape to trying to drown her in a bathtub.
The horrific details of the crime were released in a criminal complaint filed in Douglas County that charged Thomas Jay Barker, 32, and Joshua Lee Holby, 31, both of Carlos, Minn., and Steven Michael Samuel Powers, 20, of Benson, Minn., with kidnapping and false imprisonment.
Barker and Powers also were charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and Barker was charged with an additional count of second-degree assault.
The three men made their first court appearances Thursday. Holby and Barker’s next court hearings are set for Sept. 18.
The 15-year-old girl was reunited with her family Tuesday after saving herself, escaping from an abandoned rural house where she had been held captive when the men left her alone for the first time.
After thwarting several of their attempts to drown her, she escaped and swam across Thomas Lake in Grant County, running through a field to flag a farmer for help.
“After 29 harrowing days, [the girl] is safe and has been reunited with her family,” Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels said Wednesday.
According to the complaint, the girl was approached around 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 8 by Barker, the father of one of her friends, who asked her to try to talk to his son who wasn’t behaving. She agreed, leaving her cellphone behind.
When the two arrived at his house, Barker used zipties to restrain her, displayed a handgun and threatened to kill her before raping her, according to the complaint.
The girl’s mother reported her missing within three hours.
For most of the 29 days, the girl told police, she was held in a closet in Barker’s bedroom, fed fast food and water, and continually assaulted.
Once, she told police, Barker placed her in a bathtub and restrained her with zipties because, she believed, he wanted to drown her; she resisted and eventually he gave up.
Another time, she said, Barker and Holby placed her in a duffel bag and then set the bag in the bathtub. But she thwarted their efforts again, managing to stick her head out of a hole in the bag.
The men placed a rope or cord around her neck and made her stand on a bucket, forcing her off the bucket until she couldn’t breathe, she told police.
Barker forced her to have sex several times, and Powers forced her to have oral sex once, she said.
On Aug. 30, a deputy came to the home to investigate a stolen property report, but the three men sat inside silently. They decided to leave with the 15-year-old girl, placing her in a duffel bag in the back of a truck and concealing it. They drove to a cornfield and then to an abandoned house in Barrett, Minn., using a screwdriver to break in.
Police have since searched the property and collected evidence such as women’s underwear, rope and a hypodermic needle, according to the complaint.
When the men left her alone in the foreclosed house to get some pizza at a convenience store on Tuesday, the 15-year-old escaped, swimming across the lake and running through a field to call out to a farmer for help.
He immediately recognized the girl — soaking wet, without shoes or pants — from missing person fliers posted in the area. While in the farmer’s pickup truck, she saw Powers drive by and police quickly arrested him, according to the complaint.
A State Patrol trooper arrested Barker and Holby on Hwy. 28 between Glenwood and Starbuck after a statewide alert was put out.
When questioned by investigators, Powers said he was told to watch the house while Barker left but not to go in the bedroom. Out of curiosity, he said he did go in and saw the 15-year-old girl but didn’t free her; instead, he said, when Barker returned, they got drunk and the girl was sent to perform oral sex on Powers.
When questioned by police, Barker said Wednesday he was using methamphetamine and alcohol but that he didn’t know the 15-year-old and didn’t pick her up. He declined to answer additional questions.