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‘We are overjoyed’: Family of missing Utah student relieved after daughter found, man arrested

Utah

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EPHRAIM, Utah (KSL.com) — Family members say a Snow College student who was missing for several days now faces a long road of healing after she was found Saturday.

The 19-year-old was found Saturday night at a home in Loa, Wayne County, after being reported missing on Monday, Snow College Police Chief Derek Walk said at a press conference.

“She is a fighter. She is now a survivor,” said the woman’s uncle and family spokesman.

Police arrested Brent Neil Brown, 39, for investigation of aggravated kidnapping, rape, object rape and obstruction of justice after police reported finding the college student naked and covered in coal in a coal storage area inside his parents’ home, according to a police booking affidavit.

Walk did not offer many details about the case during the press conference, but the affidavit tied to Brown’s arrest provides disturbing details about what had occurred over the past several days.

Brown made contact with the woman on an app, and they arranged to meet on Dec. 13, according to the affidavit. He picked her up and drove her to his home about 87 miles from the college. But investigators say the relationship quickly became nonconsensual.

Brown told police he met the woman on a bondage chat group, the affidavit states. He said she gave him her phone and he allowed her to send a text to her parents the next morning telling them she loved them, but didn’t allow her access to it again.

Her parents and friends had expressed concern for her well-being, saying her “appearance and behavior was abnormal,” according to the arrest report.

Investigators were able to “ping” the student’s phone location on Dec. 18 and eventually went to Brown’s house. “As they approached the house they observed through a basement window a person with light-colored hair and a small build in the basement of the house,” the affidavit states. “As they knocked, this person ran out of sight.”

Brown did not initially allow police in, but they entered after obtaining permission to search the home from the home’s owners, Brown’s parents. Officers reported finding the woman’s student ID card and clothing that appeared to belong to the woman.

The woman was found in “what is described as a coal storage area of the residence … completely covered in coal” to conceal her presence from police, according to the affidavit.

Brown would tie the woman up while he went to work, leaving her able to reach food and the bathroom, the affidavit states. He described tying her up as a form of role-play.

The police booking affidavit says on Dec. 14 the woman “realized the situation she was in and began worrying she would not be able to leave.”

The woman told police “Brown raped her several times daily,” and “she did not want to have sex with Brown,” but she didn’t want to leave because he knew her family’s address and Brown had “threatened her, saying if she left or told anyone about him he would come after her family and sister,” the affidavit states.

The student said she was watching the news while sitting next to Brown and saw a report about her being missing. She said Brown told her he had mailed her phone to the Arizona/Mexico border “so nobody could locate her” and later told her that the police had stopped looking for her, the arrest report says.

“We found her through a lot of hard work, dedication and digging into facts and leads,” the police chief said. “We did a fair amount of door-knocking as well.”

The woman’s family expressed their gratitude for not only the multiple law enforcement agencies — including the FBI, State Bureau of Investigation, Sanpete County Major Crimes Task Force, Sanpete and Wayne county sheriff’s offices and Ephraim, Nephi, Mount Pleasant and Salina police — who helped find the 19-year-old, but also the supporters from all over the world who found her story.

“Hundreds of thousands of people have expressed their love and concern, fueling the outrage that aided in this effort,” the woman’s uncle said. “We have depended on your love and examples, even as we know many of you face your own struggles.”

The family also focused on the unity they felt as people came together to help find her.

“We hope that this is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the unity that can come when we pull together and focus on a singular objective,” the woman’s father said.

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