CODY, Wyo. — A Montana man was charged with kidnapping and assaulting an 11-year-old girl in Wyoming after police said he lured her into his car by saying he needed help finding a missing puppy, court records obtained Monday state.
Jesse Paul Speer, 39, was taken into custody Saturday in Belgrade, Mont., and held for Wyoming authorities. He faces extradition to that state on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault and felony use of a weapon, the records state.
Speer's bond was set at $2 million and he was expected to make a court appearance later Monday in Bozeman.
Police didn't identify the suspect at a news conference but an affidavit alleges Speer lured the 11-year-old girl into his SUV on Oct. 8 in Cody. Hours later, hunters found the girl safe outside the town,
Authorities looked into a possible connection between the case and the disappearance of Jessica Ridgeway, a 10-year-old girl in Colorado, but now say they don't think the cases are related. Jessica's body was found in a park about 7 miles from her suburban Denver home on Wednesday. No arrests have been made.
Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam said investigators relied on video surveillance tapes from businesses to identify the vehicle involved in the taking of the Wyoming girl, who has been returned to her family.
Speer's address was redacted from the court documents, but a man with Speer's date of birth is listed as living in Bozeman and having a post office box in Manhattan, Mont. He also has previous addresses in Colorado, including Divide, where he had a photography business. He has no criminal record.
Maleesha K. Speer of Bozeman said she was once married to Jesse Speer but saw nothing in his behavior to indicate he could have committed such a crime.
"No. I would have left him a long time ago," she said.
She said she had read the allegations against Jesse Speer in a news report but had not spoken with him.
Without giving details, Rockvam said law enforcement officials at Yellowstone National Park were able to provide a license plate number for a vehicle, which led to the arrest.
Rockvam said the girl was driven to a church parking lot and her hands were tied. The man told her to keep down as he drove through town, hitting her once on the head with the gun when she tried to raise it.
"The victim told the suspect that she knew that he was going to rape her, and the suspect responded that she wasn't going to get hurt," Rockvam said.
The man drove the girl to a mountainous area and sexually assaulted her, Rockvam said. He said the man then put a cloth bag over her head and released her, telling her to count to 50 before she turned around. Passing elk hunters found the girl, dressed lightly in the mountainous area, and took her to safety, the chief said.