An Arizona woman who was kidnapped on Monday was rescued after passing a note asking for help to a bystander, the local authorities said.
The woman, who has not been named by the police, got into a blue Honda van that she believed to be her Uber on Monday morning at a Phoenix-area car dealership, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office. But the van was driven by Jacob Wilhoit, 41, of Arizona, who is suspected of posing as an Uber driver, wearing a wig, to kidnap the woman. The two were acquainted, the police said, but she did not immediately recognize him. She had a restraining order against him after he had started visiting her home unannounced, according to a probable cause statement.
Mr. Wilhoit has never been an Uber driver, according to a spokesman for Uber.
According to the police, Mr. Wilhoit restrained the woman using duct tape and zip ties and then drove about 300 miles northwest to Las Vegas and spent the night at a park near Lake Mead, about 20 miles east of the city.
On Tuesday, the police said, Mr. Wilhoit drove the woman another 150 miles east to a gas station in Seligman, Ariz., where she was able to pass a note asking for help to a customer. The note included a description of the van and a phone number and said that they were headed to Kingman, Ariz., and Las Vegas.
The customer then called 911 and told law enforcement the direction in which they were traveling and provided descriptions of their clothing.
Dispatchers discovered that the victim’s mother had reported her as a missing and endangered person that afternoon, according to the police. Mr. Wilhoit was named as a person of interest in the missing person’s report.
Law enforcement officials found Mr. Wilhoit and the victim on Tuesday after conducting a traffic stop near Seligman, according to the probable cause statement. They also found firearms in the car.
Mr. Wilhoit was taken into custody and charged with felony harassment, threatening and intimidating, aggravated assault, unlawful imprisonment and kidnapping, and several other assault charges.
It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney.
Kidnappings involving ride-hailing services are not unprecedented. In 2019, a college student was killed in Columbia, S.C., after she got into a car she mistook for her Uber. In Chicago in 2017, prosecutors said a man who posed as an Uber driver sexually assaulted five women by climbing into the back seat and pinning them down.
As a safety precaution, Uber suggests that riders check the make and model of the car, the driver’s photo and the license plate before getting in. The company also recommends that riders confirm their names by asking drivers, “Who are you here to pick up?”