What to do if you suspect human trafficking
A 24-year-old woman and her 8-month-old baby were in their driveway on the Fourth of July when a man driving a utility vehicle kidnapped them, according to police and media reports.
For more than a month, the woman was reportedly terrorized by her abductor, who police say sexually assaulted her, used a Taser to shock her and threatened her with a gun.
James Bryan Peterson, 54, is accused of holding the woman and infant near his home in in the Eastern North Carolina community of Willard, nearly 100 miles southeast of Raleigh.
Peterson initially held the victims in his driveway before moving them to another location about 75 yards from his house on Aug. 1, the Wilmington Star News reported, citing warrants from the case.
Peterson used a stun gun on the woman multiple times and held her in “sexual servitude,” according to the newspaper.
The woman escaped Aug. 9 and called 911, the Pender County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.
Peterson was arrested and initially charged with sexual battery, assault by pointing a gun and two counts of assault on a female, the sheriff’s office said. .
But after searching his house, police brought additional charges: human trafficking an adult and child victim, first-degree kidnapping, involuntary servitude, sexual servitude, felonious restraint and second-degree kidnapping, the sheriff’s office said.
Ashley Gurganus, a neighbor, told WWAY she was shocked by Peterson’s arrest.
“I think he kind of, maybe kept to himself,” Gurganus said, according to the station. “I never really saw him in and out much. You just usually hear it happening far away or across seas. Something like that. But when it happens in your hometown, you just can’t believe it.”
Other neighbors told WWAY that a solar panel company is behind Peterson’s house, so it was “normal to see people going in and out.”
Police are still investigating, and Peterson is currently being held at the Pender County Jail under a $2 million bond, according to the sheriff’s office.