Charges: Stranger grabbed woman by her hair, tried to get her into a van

A witness heard the woman screaming.
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A man who grabbed a woman by her hair and dragged her across a street toward a van is now charged.

Michael Grant Harker, 34, of Scandia, attempted to abduct a woman he didn't know in Willernie on April 20 around 8:30 p.m., Washington County Attorney Pete Orput said in a statement, and now he's being charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of false imprisonment.

According to the criminal complaint:

The woman was standing near her vehicle not far from a Domino’s Pizza restaurant in Willernie when a man in a van drove by her slowly several times. The man then parked the van across the street, and walked towards her.

When he got to her, he grabbed her by the hair and dragged her across the street towards the white van. The man punched her in the head and attempted to push her into the vehicle.

The victim eventually got away from the van and ran across the street screaming, and a witness who heard the screams attempted to stop the van, but the suspect drove away. The incident was also captured on surveillance video.

The victim and the witness remembered three numbers from the van's license plate, which investigators used to narrow the search to find Harker, who had purchased the van three days prior.

Harker was on parole out of Idaho where he was convicted of felony strangulation and felony domestic assault. His initial charges also included sexual assault by forcible penetration and kidnapping.

“We are pleased that the victim was recovered on site and that no further harm came to her. Stranger abductions are among the most difficult cases to investigate, as we all know.” Chief Deputy Dan Starry said in a news release.

Stranger abductions aren't that common

It doesn't happen very often that someone is kidnapped by a stranger.

Most of the data out there is about strangers kidnapping kids, so let's start with that. A U.S. Justice Department report from last year said in 2011 there were an estimated 105 children who were victims of stereotypical kidnappings (when a person under 18 is taken by a stranger or a "slight acquaintance").

Victims were typically girls ages 12-17, and were kidnapped by a man aged 18-35, the report said.

Meanwhile, when looking at all missing persons cases that were entered into the FBI's database in 2016 (it includes kids and adults), 0.1 percent – that's 303 cases – were described as a person who was abducted by a stranger.

It's worth nothing that the option to categorize the circumstance of the missing person is optional – and in only 48.8 percent of cases was this filled out. So about half of these missing persons cases, there isn't an indication as to whether a stranger, known acquaintance or family member may have been involved.

And violent crimes committed by a stranger aren't that common in general. The Justice Department's statistics from 2010 show about 38 percent of all nonfatal violent crimes were committed by someone the victim did not know.

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