A group set out in hopes of finding the perfect Christmas tree in the lush forests of Redding, California, instead, they found a 25-year-old woman who was allegedly kidnapped, forced to strip and left for dead.
According to the victim’s statement to police, she had formed a “casual relationship” with her alleged abductors, 33-year-old Johanna Knighten and 44-year-old Fred Sanderson, over the past month. Knighten, Sanderson and the victim had been involved in a sexual relationship with one another but that relationship began to turn sour over Thanksgiving weekend, VC Star reports.
Sanderson and Knighten accused the victim of stealing things from them including an ounce of marijuana, several grams of methamphetamine, a car key and a cell phone. A fight broke out between Sanderson and the victim and police were called. No formal report was filed on the incident.
The victim attempted to move her trailer so that Sanderson would not be able to locate her and thought that would be the end of the issue, but her problems were only just beginning.
Agreeing to meet with Knighten at Redding Christian Fellowship, she soon found out she was set up. Sanderson had either been hiding in Knighten’s van or hiding near the church. The victim was ambushed, punched in the head and pinned to the floor of Knighten’s van as Sanderson directed Knighten to drive the van down a dirt path near Hat Creek.
Sanderson forced the victim to strip off her clothing, but then reluctantly gave her back a pair of shorts. Leaving the victim half nude in the woods, Sanderson told her that if she dared to go to police about the incident he would kill both her and her children.
Left with most of her body exposed, the victim was forced to take shelter in a burnt out tree and use bark as a blanket. Her legs became so cold that she had difficulty walking and the skin on her feet began to peel off. She told officers she spent the night screaming for help and attempting to sleep but was too fearful that if she fell asleep she wouldn’t wake up. She would be found by the group the following afternoon after she drank rainwater and thought of her children in order to survive the cold rain and snow.
The victim was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment where doctors determined she had been suffering severe hypothermia. While police do not believe there was any sexual abuse involved in the kidnapping, because the victim was stripped and there may have been a “sexual element” to the case, authorities are not releasing the woman’s name at this time.
Knighten has since been arrested and charged with kidnapping, attempted murder, and conspiracy. Police say they are still on the lookout for Sanderson.