Local News

Garner woman tells of kidnap, escape

Posted November 3, 2009 5:48 a.m. EST
Updated November 4, 2009 9:34 a.m. EST

— 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.

"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.