Abducted woman found unhurt Student back home in Columbia

suspect arrested, jailed in Ohio

September 21, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this article.

Stephanie Musick, the 21-year-old Columbia woman who was kidnapped at gunpoint in front of her house Friday morning, returned home yesterday after being found unharmed in Ohio.

The man suspected of abducting her, John Robert Righter, 22, of the 5000 block of Green Mountain Circle in Columbia was arrested by Englewood, Ohio, police.

He was being held on kidnapping charges, and he faces assault and weapons charges.

Police said they did not know why the suspect drove to Ohio. They said he will be extradited to Maryland tomorrow. The FBI will then file a kidnapping complaint in federal court in Baltimore.

Righter and Musick were found asleep in a vehicle in a parking lot behind a shopping mall at 4: 25 a.m. yesterday, Howard County police and the FBI said. Musick had been handcuffed Musick to a seat belt in Righter's red 1984 Dodge Raider, police said.

A 9 mm handgun and a knife were found in Righter's sports utility vehicle at the time of the arrest, police said. Police said Righter purchased a Glock pistol and handcuffs in August.

Police believe Righter, who had worked with Musick at the Sears store in The Mall in Columbia until August, might have been stalking her.

Musick was abducted about 9 a.m. Friday after arguing with a man in the driveway of her home in the 6400 block of Grateful Heart Gate in Columbia's River Hill community.

Police said the man struggled with Musick before handcuffing and dragging her into his vehicle and speeding away.

Musick called her family in Columbia during the 500-mile journey to Ohio. FBI agents intercepted the telephone call and determined the site of its origin in minutes.

Although FBI officials would not comment on the details of Musick's phone conversation, they said the call was made during a stop along Interstate 77 in Ohio.

Tracing ATM activity

FBI and Howard County police said they traced Righter's movements after he attempted to use his NationsBank ATM card at a shopping mall in Huber Heights, Ohio.

Howard County Police Chief James N. Robey said Righter tried to use the ATM card at two Huber Heights locations but failed because he entered the incorrect sequence of numbers for his ATM code.

After learning of the ATM transaction attempts, Howard County police alerted authorities in Ohio to be on the lookout for Righter and Musick.

An Englewood police officer spotted Righter's car about nine miles north of Huber Heights early yesterday.

On Sept. 5, Musick complained to Howard County police that Righter was harassing her and filed a police report.

Righter, who lives in Columbia with his mother and older brother, a Baltimore police officer, had been fired from his job in Sears' shipping and receiving dock in early August.

Musick, a student at Western Maryland College in Westminster, said she had seen Righter many times on campus and that he appeared to have been following her.

Righter began sending Musick many e-mail messages and letters from his home. Police said Musick found chocolate chip cookies on the hood of her car on campus -- a present from Righter.

The two never had a romantic relationship, police said, and many of the messages Musick received from Righter were sent to express his thanks for their friendship.

Police contacted Righter after Musick filed her report and told him he could be criminally charged if he continued to harass her. Righter agreed to stop.

If convicted on federal kidnapping charges, Righter could be sentenced to life without parole.

News of rescue spreads

Yesterday morning, the news that Musick was returning home spread quickly through her River Hill neighborhood after someone heard of the rescue on the radio, said neighbor Dana Hamer.

"And in this neighborhood, you only have to tell one person and the word just floods down the street," she said with a laugh.

By 8 a.m., dozens of neighbors and friends prepared cake and cookies to welcome Musick home. Yellow balloons tied to mailboxes and trash cans lined her street, and a table with paper plates and sweets sat in the middle of the cul-de-sac.

"We're just so happy she's coming home safely," said Wenny Lee, 33, a neighbor. "We had such relief hearing she wasn't hurt."

Another neighbor baked more than a dozen pumpkin cookies for Musick's party. Many neighbors did outdoor chores yesterday, occasionally looking at the house where Musick lives with her mother, Diana, and younger sister, while awaiting her arrival.

"Everybody here didn't know what the heck was going on," said the neighbor, 36, who asked not to be named, as she iced cookies. "It was all just unbelievable. We wanted to show her we cared a lot."

Arrival at BWI

At 1: 18 p.m., Musick stepped off a side entrance from a DC-9 plane from Pittsburgh at Baltimore-Washington International Airport's runway.

Dressed in a blue jumpsuit, she wearily descended the stairs and hugged her mother. FBI agents and airport officials escorted her to an unmarked car, and she was driven to home.

Musick did not speak to neighbors or news media when she arrived home.

Moments later, Diana Musick came out of the house to the front lawn, where she made a brief, emotional comment.

She said, "Stephanie's fine, and I'd just like to thank God and everyone for their prayers."

Pub Date: 9/21/97

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