Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Police followed cellphone calls to rescue teen

Man faces 14 years for kidnapping

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Just moments after being carjacked and kidnapped by a stranger, a 16-year-old Winnipeg high school honours student made a courageous phone call that likely saved her life.

Many details of the 2011 incident were revealed for the first time Tuesday -- including how the victim was able to help police pinpoint the location of the accused as he led them on what would be a three-hour, 100-kilometre trek into central Manitoba.

"I don't want to die," the girl whispered to a 911 operator while in the back seat of her own Chevrolet Lumina then being driven by a drunken, hulking man who made his intentions clear by repeatedly stating he was going to rape and kill her.

A recording of her frantic call was played in court Tuesday at the sentencing hearing for Clay Byron Starr, who pleaded guilty to numerous offences including forcing intercourse on the girl after abducting her from a Winnipeg parking lot.

The Crown is now seeking a 14-year sentence for Starr, 22, who is an associate of the Manitoba Warriors gang and has a long history of violent attacks.

'This is the type of offence that strikes at the heart of a community and strikes fear in citizens that they, too, could be victims of this type of random act of violence'

-- Crown attorney Nicole Roch

"This is the type of offence that strikes at the heart of a community and strikes fear in citizens that they, too, could be victims of this type of random act of violence," said Crown attorney Nicole Roch. "This began as a crime of opportunity and became something much more serious."

The teen girl's call for help, combined with a handful of other hang-up calls she secretly made over the next hour, helped Winnipeg police hone in on Starr as he sped west out of the city at speeds often reaching 180 kilometres an hour. Officers were able to get "pings" off cellular towers, court was told.

Several investigators involved in the case, including members of the canine unit and helicopter unit, testified Tuesday about their roles.

"It was frustrating to know the victim was out there and we were sort of one step behind," said Const. Scott Taylor, who ultimately arrested Starr in a swamp near Portage la Prairie -- along with a huge help from his four-legged pal, Judge.

Starr, who has a lengthy violent criminal history, claims he has little memory of the attack because he had downed a bottle of vodka and some prescription pills in the preceding hours.

But he admits jumping into the teen girl's car as she sat parked in the Brooklands area of the city around 10 p.m. Another teen friend managed to escape before Starr sped away. Starr claims he just wanted a vehicle to take a ride in.

Starr briefly stopped on Highway 26 about 30 minutes after the abduction, telling the girl to get out of the car. After she flagged down a 21-year-old man in a Pontiac Sunfire, Starr returned to the scene and ordered both into the Sunfire, telling them he had a gun.

Starr then took off in the Sunfire with the girl inside, dragging the 21-year-old several metres behind the vehicle before he managed to free himself, court was told.

After the Sunfire broke down farther along Highway 26, Starr raped the girl. He continued to threaten her with further sexual violence, and the Crown said Tuesday he clearly "wasn't done with her."

Fortunately, the girl managed to flee the Sunfire and hide in some dense bush as Starr was trying to steal another truck. She then ran to a neighbouring home for help and called police once he gave up trying to find her in the darkness and sped away.

Starr continued to head west, stopping at a Portage gas station where he stole a quad from a locked compound.

Eventually, police in the air and on the ground found Starr hiding near the Portage Diversion, which was heavily flooded at the time. Taylor and his canine partner caught him in a swamp following a lengthy foot chase, and Starr was taken into custody after being bit by Judge in the face and arm.

"He was in a position of ambush. I just remember being completely relieved at the way it turned out. When I was done I was physically exhausted," Taylor told court. "I'll never forget how dark it was that night. It was just pitch-black."

The Crown read out a victim impact statement from the teen Tuesday, which describes the physical and emotional trauma she has suffered. The girl and her family didn't come to court, saying they didn't want to "relive the experience."

"I've experienced many horrifying flashbacks. Nobody should have to live their life feeling trapped," she wrote. "Because of this incident, I will be affected for the rest of my life."

Starr's sentencing hearing is expected to continue Friday with submissions from Starr's lawyers.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 4, 2013 0

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