Community offers prayerful support for kidnap victim

·3 min read

Jul. 10—"There could have been a funeral today," Pleasant Ridge church pastor Jackie Bentley said Sunday morning through tears.

The pastor's emotional address was to a much larger congregation than is typical for the tiny church off of Choccolocco Road in Anniston. The packed pews were in response to a special member of the church, the victim of the July 4th kidnapping.

Last Monday, the victim, a 75-year-old woman, was abducted from her home after the suspect followed her around to multiple stores. She was found six hours later in the closet of the suspect's home in Anniston, duct-taped and bound.

The woman's standing in the community was apparent both on the date of the kidnapping, and on Sunday as fire department trucks and vehicles overflowed the parking lot of Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church.

Lt. Tim Hicks with the Quad City Fire Department thought of bringing the community together to attend the woman's church after she posted on her Facebook, "Let's fill the pews and thank the Lord for our lives."

Hicks said he spoke with the victim and she wanted to thank everyone who had supported her, but she didn't know how.

"She's wanting to fill the pews. No matter where we go, she's wanting to get somebody in church. So I thought what better way, with her wanting to thank people and for people to show love to her, than to come to church," Hicks said.

The victim wrote a letter which the pastor read from at the beginning of the service, and thanked everyone for their prayers.

"If you don't believe in miracles, believe me. I am one," the letter read.

"I was so afraid that I would never see my family or church again," she continued.

Agencies and families from all over Calhoun County were in attendance, including folks from the Quad City Fire Department, Oxford Fire Department, White Plains Fire Department, and Calhoun County Sheriff Matthew Wade. Fire trucks lined the street outside and spilled over into the dirt paths of the cemetery across the street.

The woman is well known in the community as a volunteer firefighter and ambulance driver.

"We had 300-400 people within the first two hours to show up. They were on 4-wheelers, motorcycles, razors, people just riding down the road with their flashers on, on 4th of July," Hicks said. "People gave up their 4th of July around 1:30 or 2 o'clock for the rest of the day to search and look for a community member that everybody knows."

"She runs every call we have," Hicks continued. "She's 75 and she runs a fire call, she runs a wreck call, she runs medical calls. If we run something and she's not there, someone will say where is she. Everybody's used to her being there."

The assistant fire chief for Quad City FD, B. R. Wilson, said he drives the pink fire truck, and the woman has gone with him several times to "give blessings to people with cancer."

"She's an amazing person," Wilson said. " She just has a big heart and she's just there for anything that somebody needs. So we're all in support of her today to give her love and show her that we love her."

The man suspected of kidnapping the woman was captured in Kentucky the day after the crime and is back in Calhoun County's jail on multiple charges, including two involving sexual assault. Total bond is $4 million. Anniston Star policy is to not identify known victims of sex crimes.

Pat Brown, Calhoun County's coroner, has since set up a GoFundMe.com account for the victim, in hopes the money could help finance a security system for her. Brown said the donations would be used to "increase security measures at her home to help give her a sense of peace there."

"She has been a pillar in the community for many years. You will not find a more caring person who is loved by so many," Brown said.