Police seek man they say took hostage in robbery

By J.J. Stambaugh knoxnews.com

Police were searching Monday for a man who allegedly kidnapped a woman during an armed robbery at a Loudon County convenience store and then forced her to drive to a remote area near Kingston.

The robbery happened at the Melton Hill Market on U.S. 321 at about 9:40 a.m. Monday, when the suspect entered the store and pointed a handgun at the head of a woman who was paying for some items at the front counter, according to Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider. The man then ordered the woman to take the money from the cashier and forced her to walk with him outside to her vehicle.

The suspect then held the woman at gunpoint and forced her to drive to a remote location in Roane County, where he ordered her to get in the back of her van and “count to 1,000,” Guider said. “He then left the vehicle and ran into the weeds.”

The woman drove into Kingston and called 911 from a business, Guider said.

Authorities used a police dog to track the suspect’s movements after he left the woman’s van, Guider said. “We had a good track but ended up in a parking lot at the boat landing,” he said.

The cashier and the woman were physically unharmed, he said.

Guider didn’t release many details of the investigation but did say police have information that corroborates the woman’s story.

“We have no information or reason to dispute her claim,” he said. “It’s very

real to us. … It’s a very unusual claim. He used her basically as a hostage to get out. This guy needs to be taken off the streets.”

Because the man wore a blue or black bandanna over his face and had on a dark hoodie-type sweatshirt, the victims were unable to give a detailed description of the robber, he said.

“Every time she’d try to look at him, he’d put the gun in her cheek,” Guider said.

The man was described as being about 6 feet tall with a medium build. In addition to the bandanna and sweatshirt, he wore blue jeans and hiking boots, according to Guider. Anyone with information is asked to call Sgt. Patrick Upton at the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office at 865-986-9081.