Attempted abduction suspect appears in court

29-year-old Tommy Kerley from Manila, the suspect in attempted mall parking lot abduction
29-year-old Tommy Kerley from Manila, the suspect in attempted mall parking lot abduction

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The man accused of trying to abduct a woman behind The Mall at Turtle Creek was in court Monday.

According to the Jonesboro Police Department, Tommy Kerley Jr., 29, from Manila was charged with terroristic threatening, kidnapping, aggravated assault, and rape.

Kerley's pre-trial hearing will be held on December 5 and his trial will begin on December 16. Both dates are being held back to allow time for a mental evaluation.

Bond and court documents have been released describing the attempted abduction of a woman in the parking lot behind The Mall at Turtle Creek on June 6.

Kerley was arrested by the Craighead County Sheriff's Office in eastern Craighead County about two hours after the attempt.

In court documents obtained by Region 8 News, the woman involved told police she noticed a van parked beside her vehicle as she was leaving the mall.  The van had the hood raised as if to look like it was broken down.

The probable cause affidavit then states as the woman went to get in her vehicle Kerley forced her inside her vehicle. Kerley then produced a knife and put it to the woman's throat. The woman told police Kerley kept telling her he was "going to kill her."

The woman reportedly struggled with Kerley as she was forced from her vehicle to the back seat of the van. The woman was able to escape the van briefly, but was then forced back into her car. Police say the woman told them she was pinned down by Kerley inside her vehicle.

According to the affidavit, the woman says Kerley told her "he had been watching her for a month, knew all about her, knew where her babies slept and, if she wanted to see her babies again, she would quit fighting and yelling."

The woman then told police Kerley forcefully attempted to kiss her, pulled her shirt down to lick her breasts and forced his hand down her pants, assaulting her.

Despite the assault, the woman continued to fight off Kerley and was able to get away from him when he released his grip to retrieve the knife. She then fled into the mall for help and gave responding officers a description of Kerley.

During the course of the investigation, a Craighead County sheriff's deputy pulled over the van matching the woman's description on Highway 18, east of Lake City. The driver also matched the description the woman gave police.

Kerley was taken into custody and confessed to attacking the woman, according to the affidavit. He was also positively identified from a six-person photo line-up.

Police say because of the woman's awareness of her surroundings and the description she was able to give police, they were able to catch the suspect less than 2 hours after the incident.

Sgt. Lyle Waterworth with the Jonesboro Police Department commended the woman saying, "She was aware enough of the situation that she was able to take care of herself, got free from him, he tried to pursue her further but she got away and was able to get in touch with police."

He said she did everything right in this kind of situation.

Police believe the incident was an "isolated event".

Jason Chudoba, Account Director for Rouse Properties which owns The Mall at Turtle Creek provided Region 8 News with this statement:

"We are aware of an incident that took place at The Mall at Turtle Creek. The safety and security of our shoppers and retailers is our number one priority and we are currently working in full cooperation with the authorities as they investigate the situation. We encourage you to contact the local police department for additional details regarding this matter." 

A judge set Kerley's bond at $500,000 and signed a no contact order.

Region 8 News will continue to track this story and bring you new details as they become available.

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