Abducted woman saved after passing note to gas station customer in Arizona

Split screen image of a note passed to a customer at a gas station in Arizona asking for help, written by a woman who was abducted on Aug. 21, 2023. On the right is a mugshot of the man charged with her abduction. Facebook/Yavapai County Sheriff's Office

An abducted woman was able to help rescue herself after she slipped a note to a customer at a gas station, asking them to call 911, according to a statement from police in Arizona.

The incident took place on Tuesday at a Chevron gas station in Seligman, Ariz., a day after the woman was allegedly kidnapped.

Police in Yavapai County said that the woman, who was left unnamed, had been abducted from a car dealership in the Phoenix area on Monday morning by a man posing as an Uber driver. The suspect, 41-year-old Jacob Wilhoit, was known to the victim, but he allegedly wore a wig to conceal his identity when he picked her up.

After Wilhoit got the victim in his minivan, he allegedly restrained her with zip ties and started driving, according to a spokesperson with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO).

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The victim’s mother reported her missing that afternoon and mentioned Wilhoit by name as a person of interest who might have been involved in her daughter’s disappearance.

Wilhoit held the victim overnight at a Lake Mead park before continuing the drive, YCSO deputies said.

On day two of the woman’s ordeal, she found her chance to get help when her abductor pulled into a gas station.

At around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the victim signalled another customer at the gas station and passed them a note.

The quickly-scrawled message on the Post-It note said ‘help’, gave the victim’s name, as well as a plea for the customer to call 911. The message included a description of the van the woman was being held in, and stated they were heading towards Kingman, Ariz. and Las Vegas.

A photo of the note was posted on social media by Gabriella Bachara, a reporter with 12 News in Arizona.

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The person who received the note called 911 and told police the van in question had just left the gas station and was heading west on Interstate 40. The Good Samaritan also provided descriptions of the woman and the man she was travelling with.

Yavapai deputies alerted the Department of Public Safety (DPS), which helped locate the van at mile post 116 on Interstate 40. Police were able to take both Wilhoit and the victim into custody without incident.

“Multiple firearms were found inside Wilhoit’s car in plain view,” police wrote.

The 41-year-old suspect was booked for harassment, aggravated assault, unlawful imprisonment and kidnapping, among several other charges.

“The victim’s extraordinary action in passing the note, the customer’s willingness to assist, and the quick actions of YCSO and DPS saved the victim from her kidnapper and allowed her to return home with her family,” police wrote.

A YCSO spokesperson said the victim “is still shaken up” following her ordeal.

“We’re confident that she’ll get through it. And obviously she wants to see this man put away. She’s still in a state of shock about all of this,” spokesperson Kristin Greene said via KVVU-TV.

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