National media are catching up on a harrowing story from Utah, where police say a woman who had been kidnapped, raped and beaten for days was able to post a Christmas Eve message for help on Facebook that led to the rescue of her and her 17-month-old son, and the arrest of a man now being held on $1 million bail.
Monday's Deseret News has one of the more complete accounts of what happened. The story begins with this:
"SANDY — The Christmas Eve message on Facebook was startling.
" 'Hello,' it said. 'Is anyone out there? I am having a serious problem and me and (my son) will be dead by morning.'
"That message, like a flare sent up by someone in trouble, brought a group of Facebook 'friends' together in a frantic effort to save a life."
The note was seen by Erica Carver of South Salt Lake, who doesn't know the alleged victim (whose name has not been released) but had "friended" her because the woman works with Carver's husband.
Carver and other of the woman's Facebook friends started posting messages looking for any information about where she might be. "Eventually," according to the Deseret News, "a Facebook friend in South Carolina offered up the victim's address. A Utah firefighter on vacation in Denver called Sandy police and gave them the crucial information."
When the police arrived, the woman's live-in boyfriend tried to tell them everything was OK. She told officers a much different story, of being struck and sexually assaulted for days and of her son allegedly being thrown. Troy Reed Critchfield, 33, was arrested.
According to The Salt Lake Tribune, police say "Critchfield had taken the woman's cellphone, but about 4:30 p.m. Saturday she was able to sneak into a closet and post [the] request for help on Facebook."
Salt Lake City's KSL-TV adds that:
"A year ago, Critchfield was arrested by a Salt Lake City SWAT team in a similar kidnapping incident involving the same victim. He pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and obstruction of justice charges. A judge sentenced Critchfield to a prison term of five years but suspended the punishment for a 120-day jail term and three years of probation."
The station has a video report here.