Details emerge in case of girl who cops say swam to escape captors

Thomas Barker, Joshua Holby and Steven Powers are in custody for the alleged kidnapping and assault of a Minnesota teen.

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MINNEAPOLIS – Three days after cops say a teen girl swam across a lake to safety, three men were charged Thursday with multiple counts of kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct and false imprisonment for allegedly holding her captive for nearly a month.

Thomas Barker, 32, of Carlos, Minnesota, and Steven Powers, 20, of Benson, were charged with kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct and false imprisonment. Joshua Holby, 31, of Carlos was charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment.

According to the criminal complaint, the 15-year-old girl, who CBS News is not naming, told police that she was home alone on the evening of Aug. 9 when Thomas Barker, the father of one of her friends, knocked on the door. She said that Barker told her that his son needed help and asked the girl to come with him to try to speak to him.

Prosecutors say Barker drove the girl to his mobile home in Carlos, about 9 miles away, restrained her and sexually assaulted her, brandishing a firearm and threatening to kill her.

The girl told police that shortly after her abduction, Barker, who has cerebral palsy and is physically impaired, put her in a bathtub while she was restrained with zip ties "and she believes that he tried to drown her" but she fought back. In a second incident, the girl told police, she was put in a duffel bag that Holby and Barker put in the bathtub, but she stuck her head out of a hole in the bag. She told police that in another incident, a rope or cord was placed around her neck and she was required to stand on a bucket, the complaint said.

"She stated that Holby then forced her off of the bucket and she described a period in which she could not breathe," the complaint said. 

The criminal complaint says Powers arrived at the home about two weeks into the girl's abduction and was told not to go into Barker's room when Barker and Holby left the residence. But Powers became curious, went into the bedroom and found the girl in the locked closet.

"Powers did not free (her), nor did he contact law enforcement," the complaint said.

The complaint says the girl had a television set and fan in the closet, and food and water were brought to her.

Weeks into her ordeal, police knocked on the door of the mobile home where she was being held to investigate a report of stolen property, but no one answered. After that, the men told the girl to get into a duffel bag, loaded her in the back of a truck, and moved her to an abandoned home.

The girl escaped from that home in rural, western Minnesota on Tuesday when the men left her alone for the first time in nearly a month as they went to get pizza. She knocked on nearby doors, then swam across part of a lake - losing her pants and shoes in the water - and flagged down a farmer for help.

According to the complaint, Barker told police that he had used methamphetamine and alcohol, but he denied knowing the girl or picking her up. Barker also said that Powers had been with the girl, but that he had not and he declined to answer more questions, the complaint said.