Local News

Attempted abduction of UNC student nets prison time

Posted June 13, 2012 11:32 a.m. EDT
Updated June 13, 2012 6:50 p.m. EDT

— A Chapel Hill man was sentenced Wednesday to prison for trying to kidnap a college student two years ago.

Theodore James Walker, 28, of 108 Timber Hollow Court, pleaded guilty in February to second-degree kidnapping, assault on a female and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury in the May 12, 2010, incident.

Defense attorney Amos Tyndall asked that Walker be placed on probation so that he could be treated for paranoid schizophrenia. Dr. Carol Vanderzwaag, a psychiatrist who has been meeting with Walker since January, said he has responded well to medication and could continue to be treated in an outpatient program.

"We are not asking the court to let (Walker) off the hook," Tyndall said, adding that Walker would receive better mental health treatment outside of prison. "At some point, he is going to come back out. We want him in the best possible position to succeed."

Walker asked Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour to "consider the hardship that my mental illness has had in my life."

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall balked at releasing Walker, saying his victim is still a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and will be on campus for at least one more year.

"I have great concerns for her continued safety," Woodall said. "I feel that she cannot feel safe in this community with the defendant out.

The student, now 20, was jogging along Columbia Street when Walker doused her with pepper spray and dragged her to a car in a Rosemary Street parking lot, police said.

Noting that his oldest sister died in a domestic violence incident, Walker said, "I am ashamed my actions have instilled that kind of fear for people's safety."

"I do want (Walker) to get treatment," Woodall said, "but I just don't think there is a plan in place and I don't think they are capable of providing a plan that ensures security, particularly for this young woman."

Woodall said the incident obviously wasn't a spontaneous decision by a mentally ill person.

Investigators found a loaded shotgun wrapped in a towel and a baseball bat in Walker's car. Police seized a UNC identification card from Walker's apartment and said they found Walker was carrying letters with women's names, details of a possible break-in and condoms when he was arrested.

The abduction attempt was thwarted when brothers Joey and Freddie Shelton heard the woman's screams as they were driving by and stopped to intervene. Joey Shelton was hit by Walker's car as he tried to flee.

"He had planned this out to a certain level," Woodall said. "I think it would have happened but for Mr. Shelton and his brother."

Joey Shelton has a permanent back injury and still has pain in his knees and wrists, Woodall noted.

"Frankly, I think Mr. Shelton is lucky to be here," he said. "This is a case in which many people were put at risk by the defendant."

Baddour sentenced Walker to the maximum 75 days on the assault on a female charge, followed by 25 to 39 months in prison on the kidnapping charge. A second 25- to 39-month sentence, on the assault with a deadly weapon charge, will be split into nine months in prison followed by five years on probation.

Since Walker has already served about 25 months in jail following his arrest, Woodall said he would likely be released from prison in 19 to 20 months.

"I'm just happy everything turned out the way it did," Joey Shelton said after the sentencing. "I'm just grateful that I'm still here and grateful that I was able to help out."

The UNC student wasn't in court Wednesday, but Shelton said he talks with her and her mother weekly. The student is doing well but remains concerned for her own safety, he said.

Walker's family declined to comment after the hearing.

Walker also is charged with hit-and-run in connection with an April 2010 incident in Pitt County that injured a woman who was then 20. He told authorities that the woman jumped out of his car after trying to grab his keys. Woodall said that case is still pending.