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Garner woman tells of kidnap, escape

Posted November 3, 2009
Updated November 4, 2009

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— A 54-year-old Garner woman who went missing Monday morning said she was kidnapped and managed to flag down a passing ambulance driver who called 911 for help.

Shelia Towell Shaner was found safe in Chatham County around midnight after the ambulance driver called 911.

In an interview with WRAL News on Tuesday, Shaner talked about the nearly 16-hour ordeal and said she feels lucky to be alive. Her husband of 17 years, Michael Shaner, kept his arm around her and broke down crying several times during the interview.

Garner woman happy to be home Garner woman happy to be home

"She is the glue that keeps this family together. I'm nobody without her," he said, adding that they have four children and six grandchildren.

Map: Shaner's ordeal began in Garner and ended west of Jordan Lake

Shaner said she she left her home at Abberly Place Apartments around 7:40 a.m. Monday to go to work. She stopped for gas and was startled by a man hiding in the back seat of her car.

He was lying down and wearing a camouflage hat and jacket and tan gloves, she told authorities. She never saw his face, but he had a young voice, she said. The man told her to drive and poked her with something, which he implied was a weapon, she said.

View Garner woman escapes kidnapper in a larger map

Shaner said she drove until her gas light came on, and they stopped at a gas station on Old Stage Road and U.S. Highway 401. The man told her to take off her shoes so she could not run, she said.

He then made her drive down a muddy path into the woods near Jordan Lake. Her car became stuck, so they got out and walked.

"(I was thinking), 'This is it,'" Shaner said. "I didn't panic until I got out of the car."

Search for captor continues

The man talked on his cell phone as he walked behind her through the woods. When his voice got fainter, Shaner said she made a run for it and hid, curled up in a ball, in some shrubs and fallen trees.

Shaner said she believes it was about 11 a.m. at that point and she decided to wait until dark to come out of hiding. When it turned dark, she walked towards some lights and found the road, she said. She tried flagging down cars, but no one stopped. Finally, an ambulance stopped and the driver called 911, she said.

Police said there was no indication of a robbery or sexual assault. However, the investigation was ongoing.

A helicopter spotted Shaner's car – a silver 2006 Pontiac Montana with N.C. tag WPV-3659 – Tuesday afternoon near the Seaford State Recreational Area in Pittsboro, authorities said.

Garner police were processing it for evidence Tuesday afternoon.

Shaner said she did not see her attacker, but remembers him wearing camouflage clothing and tan gloves. She thinks he was a white man. Anyone with information that might help in the case is asked to call Garner police at 919-772-8810. 

'My prayers were answered'

Michael Shaner reported his wife missing around 9 a.m. He was home sick and was awaiting his wife's daily phone call to say she got to work safely. When she didn't call by 8:05 a.m., he became scared, he said.

Michael Shaner said he called her work, her cell phone, her co-workers and finally drove to her office at First Citizens Data Processing Center where she has worked for 11 years.

He also called her brother, who is an Apex police officer, he said. They then called 911. Michael Shaner said he talked with police throughout the day and finally got the call that his wife was OK.

"My prayers were answered. I just wanted her back alive," he said, in tears.

The couple has had a traumatic few months, he said. Their house in Johnston County was burglarized and set on fire two months ago, which is why they are living in an apartment, and Shelia Shaner's father died of cancer on Oct. 19.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • homerJ Nov 4, 2009

    Here is a thought, next time let the police do the talking and not go on a media blitz less then 24 hours later.

  • NCSUer Nov 4, 2009

    "WAY to late for that. Why would she go on the NEWS and do an interview if she wanted respect/privacy? She should have been tight lipped right from the start.

    So i'll just continue on..."

    OOOOR.. let's say it did happen she figured she was a victim and wanted to warn others and let people know she was okay because there were a lot of people worried and praying for her. IF she did nothing wrong she wouldn't fear going on the news... and don't say that the guy who kidnapped her would be able to find where she lived-- he got her from her apartment so she doesn't need to worry about going on the news for that reason.

    She was probably naive enough to think that she wouldn't be attacked and targeted for being a victim.

    Besides.. if she had been tight-lipped you'd be even MORE likely to place the blame on her.

  • NCSUer Nov 4, 2009

    If you know anything about the apartments she was staying at you'd realize this. The Apartment complex is in a shopping center where a BJ's is, and she first stopped at the BJs gas area. THAT is when she noticed the guy in the car. VERY VERY close to her home. He was hiding in her car.. which meant he was afraid someone would find him near there. So chances are he did NOT LET HER get out and get gas there. He probably made her drive to a different gas station farther away and by that time her gas light had come on.

    You can't tell enough from this story what really is going on. I've had a relative in the news before and the way the media portrayed him was terrible. I'm not saying I know what is going on here, but I am saying that you DON'T know either. And your speculation, though you have the right to do so, is extremely rude and disrespectful to the friends and family of the lady. Just because you have the right to be a jerk doesn't mean you should be.

  • time4real Nov 4, 2009

    bet you a 12 pack it's a scam!

  • 5-113 FA Retired Nov 4, 2009

    I still say she ended up getting stuck somewhere she couldn't explain away. Obviously, not well planned.

  • JAT Nov 4, 2009

    The original story said she stopped for gas twice - the first time was when she realized he was in the car. Guess he was quiet up till then. Then she stopped again. So she was out the car and stood there long enough to pump gas and still got back in the car with the guy who stayed hidden the whole time?

    I still say - this is either a made up story or one really weird unintelligent kidnapper.

  • antb Nov 4, 2009

    For everyone that asks how can she out run a young person - he wasn't chasing her. She said his voice got fainter, meaning he either turned around or stopped and let her walk away. I'm glad the lady is OK.

  • homerJ Nov 4, 2009

    If the 91 year old woman shot someone dead, i'm pretty sure there wouldn't be questions revolving around the situation.

    The fact is the 'person' is still loose and we dont know anything.

    And you seem to be avoiding the question about getting gas. Why is that? How can you not see something is fishy going on.

    And it is not just golo. Go to other local sites and read the comments. You are in the minority.

  • spraysconst Nov 4, 2009

    So lets say a 91 year old lady living alone stops a home invasion with say lethal force than goes on T.V. and gives a interview with what happened does this make it "murder" once again please show some respect thank you

  • homerJ Nov 4, 2009

    "Please give Mrs Shaner and her family some respect"

    WAY to late for that. Why would she go on the NEWS and do an interview if she wanted respect/privacy? She should have been tight lipped right from the start.

    So i'll just continue on...