A 19-year-old missing college student was found alive under a pile of coal in a man’s basement, police in Utah said.
Madelyn Allen was reported missing on Dec. 13 after she was last seen around 9 :22 p.m. leaving her dorm room at Snow College in Ephraim, WIVB reported.
Allen had arranged to be picked up by 39-year-old Brent Brown, whom she met in an online “chat group,” according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune.
Brown took Allen to his home in Wayne County, more than an hour’s drive from her college dorm room, where surveillance video showed her leaving wearing a white jacket and a black skirt, KUTV reported.
Allen sent a text message to her parents around 7:20 a.m. on Dec. 14 saying “I love you,” WIVB reported. The text message was sent from Loa, where Brown’s home is located, about 87 miles from Ephraim.
Brown is accused of having “tied up Allen while he was at work, threw her phone away when he discovered police were searching for her and took her wallet,” according to the affidavit obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune.
He also “threatened her, saying if she left or told anyone about him, he would come after her family and sister,” the Tribune reported.
Investigators tracked Allen’s phone to a residential neighborhood in Loa, where officers saw a woman matching her “description through the basement window” of Brown’s home, KSL-TV reported.
Brown answered the door and told police that no one else was inside, the outlet reported.
Police later searched his residence on Dec. 18 and found Allen in the basement’s “coal storage area,” according to the outlet.
“We don’t have a lot of information about him,” Snow College Police Chief Derek Walk said during a news conference on Dec. 19. “We met him for the first time last night. We don’t know how extensive his relationship or her knowledge of him is thus far.”
Allen was reunited with her family and taken to a nearby hospital for examination, Walker said in the news conference.
“You can imagine how we must’ve felt early in the week, when we heard of her disappearance,” Allen’s father, Jonathan, said at the news conference. “You can also imagine how we must’ve felt when the chief called me last night… we got the phone, and he called as he had done many times, and he said, ‘I have her.’ And we dropped to our knees.”
Brown was arrested in connection with Allen’s disappearance and charged with obstruction of justice, authorities said at the news conference. Additional charges are pending.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” Walker said during the conference. “There are certain aspects we are still digging into and trying to understand fully.”
McClatchy News reached out to the State of Utah District Court on Dec. 20 and was awaiting response.