Alexandria teen abducted by family friend, escapes after 29 days

Alexandria Police provided new details Wednesday into the nightmarish 29 days 15-year-old Jasmine Block endured before she escaped from her kidnappers and was found. 

Sarah Block, Jasmine's mother, described the emotional reunion after the teen had been missing from her home for nearly a month.

"It was like heaven," said Sarah Block.  "I thought having a child was the best feeling, but seeing Jasmine right in front of my eyes was beyond that."

Authorities had been searching for Block since she went missing on Aug. 8. At a press conference, Chief Richard Wyffels revealed that Block 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.

On Aug. 8, Thomas Barker, the family friend, approached Block outside her home around 11 p.m. and asked for her help with a family situation. Since she knew him, Block agreed to help and got into his vehicle.

The 32-year-old drove Block to his home in Carlos. Once she was inside, Barker restrained her with zip ties, assaulted her and threatened her with weapons.

“[Barker] tricked her by saying he would like her to come help with a family situation and Jasmine was already familiar with the other family members who do not live with him in that neighborhood,” Wyffels said. “She’s thinking he’s trusting and honest, she goes ‘I’ll just go with you right now.’ So she gets in the car, except he takes her to Carlos and ties her up.”

Block was held in Barker’s house against her will for several weeks, Wyffels said, often being kept in a closet. She was repeatedly physically and sexually assaulted by him, his roommate and one of his friends.

Last week, the three men took Block from Barker’s house to various locations, which included a cornfield and a foreclosed property in rural Grant County. On Tuesday afternoon, they left Block alone for the first time in 29 days while they went to a nearby town for lunch.

Block 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.

While the farmer was driving Block to authorities in a nearby town, she recognized another vehicle that was being driven by Barker. They called 911 and he was taken into custody. The other two suspects, identified as Steven Powers, 20, of Mankato, and Joshua Holby, 31, of Carlos, were located in Glenwood a short time later and arrested.

Block was treated for minor injuries at the Douglas County Hospital. She reunited with her family on Tuesday night. 

"She is talking about it," said Sarah Block. "She's told me everything. As a mother it's the worst hearing that and seeing her struggling with it."

“She’s an amazing woman with a lot of strength,” Wyffels said. “We think a lot of her family. Her mom was strong for this whole time and consistent and never gave up. Amazing people. And the victim is now safe with her mother and all of us in this community are proud of her.”

All three suspects are being held in Douglas County Jail on probable cause for kidnapping, false imprisonment and assault. The suspects have not said why Block was targeted, according to police.

"She feels a little bit better knowing they are in jail, but she's still very scared, which is to be expected," said Sarah Block.

Authorities do not believe there is any ongoing threat to the public.

The investigation into Block’s abduction is ongoing. Investigators are asking farmers in Pope, Grant, and Douglas counties to check their cornfields for damage associated with vehicles driving through them. Block lost her shoes and pants while swimming in Thompson Lake and anglers are asked to report any clothing floating in the lake or on the shoreline.