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Abducted Nebraska Teen Returns Home

April 14, 2001|Associated Press

KEARNEY, Neb. — Kidnapping victim Anne Sluti came home Friday, a week after the 17-year-old was whisked away from a local mall parking lot and kept hostage hundreds of miles away in Montana.

With a bruise under her right eye and an FBI cap on her head, Sluti stepped off a private jet with her parents and brother. A small group of family members and friends shrieked with excitement.

"Thank God she's alive," said Sue Daniel, who took her three nieces to see Sluti arrive.

"I'm just happy to get back home," Sluti said earlier in the day as the family prepared to leave Kalispell, Mont. "I want to thank everyone who helped me get home safely."

Remarked her mother, Elaine Sluti, "Someone at the hotel said to me this morning, 'Have a good day.' Believe me, we are having a very good day."

More than 200 people attended a celebration Friday at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, where Sluti's father, Don, is an associate professor of management and marketing. They joined hands, circled the university's bell tower and observed a silent prayer in support of the family.

She was finally freed about 3 a.m. Thursday after more than five days in captivity. The ordeal ended with a 10-hour standoff at a lakeside cabin in Rollins, Mont., 900 miles from Kearney. Her alleged abductor, Anthony Zappa, a fugitive wanted for various crimes in several states, was arrested and charged with kidnapping.

Authorities called the honors student "very clever and very brave" and said she was instrumental in persuading Zappa to surrender. Police said Sluti worked the phone during the standoff, confidently relaying each side's reassurances and demands.

Authorities linked Zappa to the abduction through a stolen sport-utility vehicle believed used in the kidnapping and found abandoned in Montana, not far from where a blue Toyota Tercel had been stolen. On Wednesday, a landlord tipped off police to the cabin on Flathead Lake after reporting an unfamiliar car nearby. It was a blue Tercel.

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