‘What a kid!’ – captive teen helps end standoff
ROLLINS, Mont. (AP) – A man accused of abducting a 17-year-old girl from a Nebraska mall last week surrendered at a lakeside cabin Thursday after the teen-ager calmly helped police end a 10-hour standoff.
Anne Sluti, an honor student from Kearney, Neb., had a black eye but appeared otherwise unharmed. She ran into the arms of a deputy and was later reunited with her parents in nearby Kalispell.
”We have a miracle that happened,” Sluti’s father, Don, said by telephone from Kearney before leaving for Montana. He said he was able to talk with his daughter during the overnight negotiations: ”What a kid!”
Anthony Zappa, 29, allegedly grabbed the girl from a parking lot mall in her hometown last Friday and took her 900 miles away to this small resort town on Flathead Lake.
He had eluded authorities since February for failing to appear in a Minnesota court on a burglary charge. Zappa, also known as Anthony Wright, is also wanted on charges that include assault, theft and illegal gun possession in Nebraska, Louisiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Omaha, Neb., filed kidnapping charges against Zappa late Thursday.
A landlord who spotted a car outside the supposedly empty cabin tipped off authorities Wednesday evening. Negotiators said Sluti was their only contact for hours, acting as a go-between with Zappa, who would not come to the telephone until the very end.
”There’s no doubt in my mind the role she played in ending this,” said Undersheriff Mike Sargent, one of the negotiators. ”The way she handled herself when dealing with me was very calm and cool and collected.”
Sheriff Bill Barron said Sluti was ”very clever and very brave.”
The standoff ended shortly after 3 a.m. when Zappa walked out and surrendered, authorities said. Sluti followed close behind. Zappa was taken off to jail.
Sargent said Sluti did a remarkable job of helping convince Zappa that the 50 or so officers surrounding the cabin would not harm him if he came out.
”From our very first conversation, she expressed that Tony wanted to end this, and when it did end, he wanted it peacefully,” Sargent said. ”He needed reassurance that we wanted to end this peacefully. I got him calmed down and he surrendered peacefully.”
Sluti disappeared Friday from the parking lot of the Hilltop Shopping Center in Kearney, where her purse and other belongings were found. Zappa was linked to the crime by a stolen 1987 Chevy Suburban later found 30 miles from the cabin.
Sluti managed to make three brief phone calls last weekend, including one to 911 from a cabin outside Livingston, about 300 miles from Rollins. By the time authorities arrived, the cabin was empty. The girl also managed to call her family and a friend on Saturday, but those calls were cut off, authorities said.
At one point last month, the manhunt for Zappa prompted police to close the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. – the nation’s biggest mall – to search the place after he was spotted there.
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