ST. LOUIS – It’s scary to think of the trouble that can be right in our midst, with most of us having no idea. Two women kidnapped from Florida end up being held captive at a hotel in downtown St. Louis, according to police.
St. Louis police credit hotel staff for assisting officers to put an end to the frightening ordeal and say the case is sparking concerns about possible human trafficking.
Around 11:30 a.m. Saturday, police received a rather bizarre call from the staff at the Hampton Inn at 333 Washington Avenue.
Two women from Florida reportedly told hotel staff that they were being held captive in one of the rooms.
The women, ages 21 and 36, told officers that their captors told them they were needed for a “moving” job in Florida about 10 days ago. They were instead driven to the Atlanta area and then to St. Louis, frightened about what might be next.
Police did not say how long they were held at the hotel.
“It wasn’t until they wound up in the area of Atlanta, Georgia, that they were told they weren’t going to be allowed to leave,” Sgt. Charles Wall, a spokesman for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, said. “They were then driven from the area of Atlanta to St. Louis, where they were checked into this hotel. They were kept with three suspects.”
The women asked the staff for help when the suspects briefly left them alone, according to police.
Police arrested Nikki Rebarcak, 41, after hotel staff alerted officers that she had returned to the premises. The two men with her fled.
Rebarcak is charged with two counts of felony kidnapping, but Judge Elizabeth Hogan ordered her released from jail on her own recognizance, pending a hearing set for Friday. That development is upsetting to U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, who’s been pushing for tougher penalties in cases that may be related to human trafficking.
“It is often very hard to prosecute these traffickers because they hide behind, ‘Well, I had a legitimate business,” Hawley told FOX. “You can’t quite prove kidnapping, so you’ve got to get me on something else. They intimidate their victims.”
City police are reaching out to federal authorities in an effort to figure out if this may be something more than an isolated incident.
“If (the suspects) have similar types of involvement with other agencies out of state, across the country, other similar incidents, those are all key indicators to get you to look at maybe some type of ring involved in this type of activity,” Sgt. Wall said.
Police have identified one of Rebarcak’s alleged cohorts and are actively searching for him.