Three suspects charged in the kidnapping and assault of a 15-year-old girl from Alexandria, Minnesota made their initial court appearances Thursday. Prosecutors said the teenager was abducted and transported in a duffel bag and “treated like animal" over the 29 days she was reported missing.
Authorities had been searching for Jasmine Block since she went missing on Aug. 8. At a press conference Wednesday, Alexandria Police Chief Richard Wyffels revealed Block had been kidnapped by a family friend, held against her will and repeatedly assaulted by three men for several weeks. She was reunited with her family on Tuesday. Jasmine Block detailed the alleged abduction in a interview with Fox 9.
Thirty-two-year-old Thomas Barker, a family friend, approached Block outside her home around 11 p.m. the night of Aug. 8 and asked for her help with his son, who was not behaving.
Since she knew him, Block agreed to help and got into his vehicle. She believed they would be driving to a house in Alexandria, but instead Barker drove the victim to his home in Carlos.
Once Block was inside, he allegedly restrained her with zip ties, pulled out a gun and threatened to kill her, according to the charges. He then sexually assaulted her.
Block was held in Barker’s house against her will for several weeks, often being kept in a closet. She was repeatedly physically and sexually assaulted by him and two other suspects; Steven Powers, 20, of Mankato, and Joshua Holby, 31, of Carlos.
"I was usually in a closet and I usually stayed quiet because I was scared they might hit me or do something,” Jasmine told Fox 9.
Block told police that Barker, Powers and Holby attempted to kill her several times. Twice, Barker allegedly tried to drown her in the bathtub. In another incident, a rope was reportedly placed around her neck while she was forced to stand on a bucket. Holby then forced her off the bucket and Block said she was unable to breathe.
Powers discovered Block when he was staying at Barker's house. Barker and Holby left for a short time and Barker instructed Powers not to go in his bedroom while he was gone. In a statement to police, Powers said he became curious and went into Barker's bedroom and discovered Block in the closet. He did not free her or contact police.
According to the charges, Block told investigators Barker forced her to have sex with him four times and perform oral sex on him approximately 10 times. She was also forced to perform oral sex on Powers. Holby reportedly did not sexually assault her.
At one point in the search for the missing teenager, a deputy investigating a stolen property report came to Barker’s house in Carlos and knocked on the door while all three suspects and the victim were inside. According to Powers, no one answered the door and the victim was kept in the closet. The suspects remained silent until the deputy left.
Escape from attackers
After the police visit, Barker reportedly decided they needed to move Block from the house. They put her in a duffel bag and put the bag in the back of a truck. The three suspects then took her from the house in Carlos to various locations, including a cornfield and foreclosed property in rural Grant County.
On Tuesday afternoon, the suspects left the Block alone for the first time since her abduction while they went to a nearby town for lunch. She escaped and ran door-to-door looking for help. She eventually swam across part of Thompson Lake, where she encountered a farmer who instantly recognized her from news reports.
The three suspects were taken into custody on Tuesday after Block alerted authorities to one of the vehicles they were driving.
In a statement to police, Barker admitted he had been drinking and using meth. According to family members, he has cerebral palsy and is married with six children.
“We have just as many questions as everyone else,” said Brittany, Barker's sister. “We're lost we're broken. Our family is shattered.”
Barker is charged with two counts of kidnapping, two counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of assault with a dangerous weapon and one count of false imprisonment. Brittany says she is disbelief about the accusations.
“I helped with her search. I donated t-shirts to her mom,” she said. “I'm not going to not believe it I'm sorry to Jasmine, I'm sorry to her family."
Powers is charged with one count of kidnapping, one count of criminal sexual conduct and one count of false imprisonment.
Holby is charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of false imprisonment.
All three men have criminal histories. Barker has the most on his record, including misdemeanor convictions for burglary, disorderly conduct and theft. Now charged with six felonies, Brittany vows to stand by her brother.
“My brother was a happy person, and he was on drugs," said Brittany. I don’t know what else to say.”