A woman who was abducted by a man posing as an Uber driver and wearing a wig was rescued Wednesday after she passed a note to a customer at gas station in northwestern Arizona asking for help, authorities said.
The woman was abducted from a car dealership in the Phoenix area on Tuesday morning by 41-year-old Jacob Wilhoit, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office. The woman's mother reported her missing earlier that day, the sheriff's office said, and the missing person's report named Wilhoit as a person of interest.
"It was definitely a targeted kidnapping," sheriff's office spokeswoman Kristin Green told The Washington Post. Green said authorities figured out how Wilhoit knew to arrive at the dealership at the same time the victim requested the ride-share, but said they are not releasing more details at this time.
The woman was "unbelievably traumatized" by the ordeal "to the point where she wasn't able to give a full interview" to authorities, Green said. "But in her initial comments after she was rescued she said she was taken against her will and she did not go consensually."
Another customer helped
Wilhoit disguised himself with a wig and pretended to be a ride-share driver when he arrived to pick her up, authorities said in a statement. At one point, the woman's hands were zip-tied, Green told The Post.
On Tuesday night, the woman slipped a note pleading for help to another customer at a Chevron gas station in Seligman, Ariz.
"Help, [redacted]," was scribbled at the top of the yellow paper. "call 911. Blue Honda van. [redacted] Going to Kingman and Las Vegas," the handwritten note read. The woman's name was withheld by authorities.
The sheriff's office said Wilhoit restrained the woman and drove to Las Vegas, where they spent the night at Lake Mead Park.
The customer at the gas station called local police after receiving the note and told them the van Wilhoit was traveling in had left westbound on I-40. The customer was able to give descriptions of the clothes that the kidnapped woman and the man were wearing.
Authorities located the pair without incident, the sheriff's office said. Multiple firearms were found in the suspects vehicle in plain view, the sheriff's office added. Wilhoit was arrested on charges that included harassment, aggravated assault, unlawful imprisonment and kidnapping.
Wilhoit was booked into the Yavapai County Detention Center at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, online records show. He remained there Friday evening. It's unclear if Wilhoit has retained an attorney and no court date has been set.
"The victim's extraordinary action in passing the note, the customer's willingness to assist, and the quick actions of [Yavapai County Sheriff's Office] and [Arizona Department of Public Safety] saved the victim from her kidnapper and allowed her to return home with her family," authorities wrote in a Facebook post.
Last month, a similar incident occurred when a 13-year-old girl who had been kidnapped in Texas was rescued in California when she was spotted holding up a handwritten message that read "Help Me!" from inside a parked car.