The FBI is searching in Utah and other states for more possible victims after a woman escaped from a cinder block cell in Oregon

Portland, Ore. • A man posing as an undercover cop kidnapped a woman in Seattle, drove her hundreds of miles to his home in Oregon, and locked her in a cell made of cinder blocks until she smeared her hands blood and forced the door open to shut escaped, the FBI said on Wednesday.

Negasi Zuberi, 29, faces federal charges on interstate kidnapping and authorities say they are looking for more victims after linking him to violent sexual assaults in at least four other states.

“This woman was kidnapped, chained, sexually assaulted and locked in a concrete block cell,” Stephanie Shark, the deputy special agent in charge of the FBI’s Portland field office, said in a press release. “Police say they banged on the door with bloody hands to free themselves. Her quick thinking and will to survive may have saved other women from a similar nightmare.”

After the woman fled his home in Klamath Falls, Zuberi fled the southern Oregon city of about 22,000 but was arrested by state police in Reno, Nevada, the next afternoon, the FBI said.

The court records do not list an attorney who could speak on Zuberi’s behalf. He has not yet been assigned a public defender in Oregon because he is still in the process of being extradited from Nevada, which could take several weeks, said Kevin Sonoff, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Oregon.

(FBI via AP) This undated photo provided by the Portland field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows the inside of a makeshift cinder block cell in Klamath Falls, Oregon that was allegedly used by Negasi Zuberi.

According to the FBI, Zuberi also went by the names Sakima, Justin Hyche, and Justin Kouassi, and as of 2016 lived in multiple states, possibly in California, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Alabama, and Nevada.

According to a criminal complaint filed in the US District Court in Oregon, Zuberi solicited the woman, identified only as adult victim 1, in the early hours of July 15 to engage in prostitution along Seattle’s Aurora Avenue, a neighborhood known for sex work operate . Afterward, Zuberi told the woman he was an undercover officer, showed her an ID card, pointed a stun gun at her, and handcuffed and shackled her before putting her in the back seat of his vehicle, the complaint said.

He then drove the woman to his home in Oregon, stopping en route to sexually assault her, the complaint says. When they arrived, about seven hours after he first met them in Seattle, he put them in a makeshift cell he’d built in his garage — a cinder block cell with a metal bar door — and said he was leaving to do paperwork.

The woman “slept briefly and awoke realizing that unless she tried to escape, she was likely to die,” the complaint said.

She began pounding on the metal door, breaking some of its welds, creating a small opening through which she climbed, Klamath Falls Police Captain Rob Reynolds said at a news conference.

“As she tried to escape from the cell itself, she repeatedly banged on the door with her own hands,” Reynolds said. “She had multiple lacerations along her ankles.”

The victim saw Zuberi’s vehicle parked in the garage, opened it, grabbed his gun and then ran, leaving blood on a wooden fence which she climbed to escape, the complaint says. She stopped a passing driver who called 911.

Two Nevada State Patrol officers tracked Zuberi to a Walmart parking lot in Reno the next day, July 16, the complaint said. He was in his car, holding one of his children in the front seat while he spoke to his wife, who was standing outside the vehicle. When officers asked him to do so, he initially refused to get out of the car, instead cutting himself with a sharp object and attempting to destroy his phone, the complaint says. It states that Zuberi finally surrendered and the child was unharmed.

According to the complaint, investigators questioned Zuberi’s wife and neighbors. Authorities would not say if there was any evidence that either of them knew about the kidnapping of the Seattle woman.

Investigators said that when they searched Zuberi’s home and garage, they found the makeshift cell, the woman’s purse and handwritten notes. One of the notes was titled “Operation Take Over” and included a bulleted list with entries like “leave the phone at home” and “make sure you don’t have a lot of people in your life.” They don’t want any investigation.”

(Claire Rush | AP) Klamath Falls Police Commissioner Rob Reynolds speaks at a press conference at the FBI’s Portland Field Office in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday, August 2, 2023, accompanied by John Casolino, senior assistant attorney general of the FBI Criminal Justice Division of the Oregon Department of Justice, left, and Stephanie Shark, Assistant Special Agent at the FBI.

Another handwritten document appeared to contain a rough sketch for an underground structure made of concrete blocks, foam insulation, and waterproof concrete.

The FBI said Zuberi may have used other methods to gain control over women, including dosing drugs into her drinks. The agency said it is in the process of setting up a website asking anyone who believes they have been a victim to come forward.

The Klamath Falls rental home where Zuberi allegedly took the woman is owned by the city’s mayor, Carol Westfall, and her husband, Kevin, according to property records. The home borders a park and is on a residential street less than a quarter mile from an interstate.

Court records show that after Zuberi’s arrest, the couple arranged for his eviction.

“We are shocked and dismayed by what has happened,” the Westfalls said in an email. “We applaud the actions of the woman who helped apprehend this individual and prevent her from committing further atrocities.”

The Westfalls also commended local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies for their work on the case. They declined to answer questions about their interactions with Zuberi.

Johnson reported from Seattle. Andrew Selsky of Salem, Oregon, and Rebecca Boone of Boise, Idaho contributed.

Justin Scaccy

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