Kidnapped US teen reached out for help three times before being rescued from attacker in Tennessee


The Knox County Sheriff’s Office rescued the girl on June 5, 2020, at a truck stop in Knoxville, Tennessee, after she gained access to her phone for a third time and contacted her family, the US Attorney’s Office said. Authorities were able to pinpoint the phone’s location after the girl’s family called them. — Photo by SHVETS production: https://www.pexels.com/photo/pensive-female-browsing-smartphone-in-dark-room-with-colorful-lights-7194009/

A 15-year-old girl who was kidnapped, taken across state lines and sexually assaulted reached out for help twice in 2020, before finally reaching family, leading to her rescue. Her kidnapper was sentenced to 50 years in federal prison on Dec 4.

Wilmer Rivera-Hernandez, 33, of Honduras, pleaded guilty Aug 24 to taking the teenage girl June 2, 2020, from Houston across states and raping her in a motel in Little Rock, Arkansas, according to court records. Rivera-Hernandez’s defense attorney, Alejandro Macias, has not responded to request for comments.

Rivera-Hernandez, who was living in the country illegally, picked the girl up for a date in Houston and drove her around for four days “against her will”, documents show. Cellphone tower records showed the two had driven through Arkansas and into Tennessee.

During the kidnapping, Rivera-Hernandez choked, drugged and threatened the girl and her family if she did not comply, the Justice Department said in a news release. He also took the girl’s cellphone and forced her to drink alcohol so she’d fall asleep, court records show.

While driving through Lufkin, the girl managed to access her phone, take a picture of Rivera-Hernandez’s license plate and send a text saying she had been kidnapped, according to court documents. Law enforcement was not alerted to the kidnapping despite the girl’s efforts. Documents did not specify to whom she texted the license plate photo.

The girl accessed her phone a second time when the two crossed into Arkansas and she called 911, court records show. However, language difficulties led to the lack of a response from authorities.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office rescued the girl on June 5, 2020, at a truck stop in Knoxville, Tennessee, after she gained access to her phone for a third time and contacted her family, the US Attorney’s Office said. Authorities were able to pinpoint the phone’s location after the girl’s family called them.

After the arrest, Rivera-Hernandez created fake WhatsApp messages that he said the girl sent him, the US Attorney’s Office said, saying she was in love with him and recanting her accusations of rape and kidnapping. The messages led to obstruction of justice charges.

Rivera-Hernandez remains in custody pending transfer to a federal prison facility that will be decided in the future. – Houston Chronicle/Tribune News Service

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