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Unpaid drug debt allegedly led to kidnapping
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Savannah Chatham Metropolitan Police Chief Michael Berkow said Monday a kidnapping last week that ended with a rescue and arrest in Hinesville was sparked by an apparent unpaid drug debt.
At a news conference Monday, the chief said the Savannah woman was kidnapped in Yamacraw Village in Savannah on Thursday evening. She was found in a house in the 300 block of Nottingham Way in Hinesville on Friday afternoon when she reportedly escaped her captors and sought help from the neighbors.
“This was a horrific incident involving drug debts that resulted in the kidnapping and sexual assault of an innocent woman,” Berkow said.
According to police, the men initially went to collect $10,000 owed to them from an alleged drug deal.
“They wanted their guy or their money,” Berkow said. “Neither of them were there, and they left with her.”
A 911 hang-up call alerted the authorities about armed men who forced their way into an apartment and took the woman. Within hours, units from metro, the Chatham-Savannah Counter Narcotics team and the U.S. Marshals Service were monitoring correspondence between the kidnappers and people at the apartment. Information led authorities to Hinesville.
According Hinesville Police Det. Maj. Thomas Cribbs, his department received a call from Savannah requesting help watching the house here.
Agents from the Multi Agency Crack Enforcement Drug Task Force and HPD officers staked out the house.
By midday Friday two men were arrested near Hunter Army Airfield by the marshals. They later were identified as Anthony Antero Smith, 25, of Hinesville and Chris Scott, 34, of South Carolina. Around 2 p.m., MACE agents in Hinesville spotted a man leave the house and arrested him. Cribbs reported the woman was able to break free from her bonds and ran to a neighboring house where an off-duty officer lives. He called 911.
Cribbs said there was evidence the woman had been tied up and held against her will. Her name was not released because she may have been sexually assaulted.
The man arrested here, Jalani Battle, 35, of Hinesville was formally arrested and faces kidnapping charges in Chatham County. In Liberty County he is being charged with robbery, false imprisonment and three counts of a sexual assault. Smith and Scott were charged with kidnapping in Savannah. Smith has charges pending in Liberty County for robbery and a sexual assault.
According to Berkow, authorities are still searching for the person who allegedly owes $10,000.
“He has not made himself available to authorities,” Berkow said.
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