Car fire provides woman escape from abductor who police hope to capture

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Police need your help finding a man who abducted a woman walking to her car Tuesday  night who was only able to get away because her car caught on fire.

It was a terrifying experience for the victim. Police say she's in her early 30's and they fear if it weren't for the fire, her experience could have been even worse.

Police are confident the suspect’s intentions were to do more than just abduct the woman. Police say the victim was walking to her car at about 8 p.m. Tuesday when the suspect attacked her from behind and forced her into her car.

He told her to drive into a nearby field as he climbed in the backseat behind her. She scraped a curb, which is possibly what caught her car on fire. The fire gave her a chance to get away, and police say was lucky.

“Certainly the possibility the kidnapping could have led to sexual assault in nearby field. (She was) fortunately able to get away, we don't know what would’ve happened had she not been able to do that,” said Overland Park Officer Gary Mason.

A woman who lives nearby said the neighborhood is normally safe and she was stunned to hear about what happened.

“I live with another young female; we walk our dogs every day at night,” Dani Degenhardt said. “Just scary to think something like that could have happened, especially in a neighborhood I've always felt was safe since we have lived here.”

Degenhardt said her parents told her not to go out after dark alone, and she and her roommate are going to work out a buddy system to get the dogs walked, which police say is a wise decision.

The suspect is described as six feet tall and heavy-set. He was wearing a hat and a dark heavy coat. A further suspect description is limited because the victim was attacked from behind and never got a good look at him.

If you have any information that can help police make an arrest, call the TIPS Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS.