Suspect in Wyo. girl kidnapping held in Mont. jail

Associated Press

CODY, Wyo. (AP) — A Montana man faces charges of kidnapping and assaulting an 11-year-old girl in Wyoming after police said he lured her into his car by saying he needed help finding a missing puppy, court records obtained Monday state.

Jesse Paul Speer, 39, was taken into custody Saturday in Belgrade, Mont., and held for Wyoming authorities. He faces extradition on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault and felony use of a weapon, the records state.

Speer's bond was set at $2 million and he was expected to make a court appearance later Monday in Bozeman.

Authorities looked into a possible connection between the case and the disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway, a 10-year-old girl in Colorado, but now say they don't think the cases are related. Jessica's body was found in a park about 7 miles from her suburban Denver home on Wednesday. No arrests have been made.

Speer approached the victim and other children in Cody on Oct. 8, police Detective Jonathan Beck wrote in a statement. When the girl refused to get in his vehicle, Speer pulled a pistol on her and motioned her into his SUV.

Beck wrote that Speer drove the girl to a church parking lot and tied her hands behind her back. He told her to keep down as he drove through town, hitting her once on the head with the gun when she tried to raise it.

"The victim told the suspect that she knew that he was going to rape her, and the suspect responded that she wasn't going to get hurt," Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam told reporters Monday.

He then drove the girl to a mountainous area outside of Cody, where he assaulted her, Beck said in the statement, which was filed written to support felony charges in state court in Cody.

Rockvam said the man then put a cloth bag over her head and released her, telling her to count to 50 before she turned around. Passing elk hunters found the girl, dressed lightly in the mountainous area, and took her to safety, he said.

Many local businesses in Cody provided surveillance video to investigators that showed a white, Toyota 4-runner with a luggage box on top at various areas of the city shortly before the girl was abducted, Beck wrote. The girl was able to describe the route taken when he drove them out of town.

On Saturday, an FBI agent reviewing surveillance video of a Yellowstone National Park entrance recorded on Oct. 7 — the day before the girl's abduction — noticed a white Toyota with a cargo box and obtained the vehicle's license plate number. Other video at the park showed the vehicle leaving later.

Investigators matched the license plate number from the Yellowstone surveillance video to Speer, Beck wrote. His driver's license photograph resembled an artist's rendering of the suspect the girl described and his photo also resembled the man videotaped at a Cody liquor store hours before the abduction.

Speer's glasses had a blue line on the side of the frame, matching a description that the girl gave to police, Beck wrote. The girl also told investigators she saw stacked photographs of naked young girls in the vehicle.

Speer's address was redacted from the court documents, but a man with Speer's date of birth is listed as living in Bozeman and having a post office box in Manhattan, Mont.

Maleesha K. Speer of Bozeman said she was once married to Jesse Speer but saw nothing in his behavior to indicate he could have committed such a crime.

"No. I would have left him a long time ago," she said.

She said she had read the allegations against Jesse Speer in a news report but had not spoken with him.

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