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by Trinity Gruenberg

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by Trinity Gruenberg

trinity@inhnews.com

     The family of Jasmine Block and the Alexandria community were relieved and elated Block was found alive.

    On September 5, Block was located in rural Grant County. She was treated for minor injuries at the Douglas County Hospital and has been reunited with her family. 

    Block vanished from her home in Alexandria on August 8 around 11 p.m. and was missing for 29 days.

    A press conference was held at the Alexandria Police Department on September 6. Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels shared Block’s courageous story. 

     “She was kidnapped against her will and was repeatedly assaulted during her captivity,” said Wyffels.

    Thomas Jay Barker, 32, of Carlos was a family and neighborhood acquaintance. He approached Block at her home on August 8, and asked for her help with a ‘family situation.’ Block offered to help and got into his vehicle. He drove them to his residence in Carlos. 

    “Once inside, Jasmine Block’s nightmare would begin,” said Wyffels.

    Barker, his roommate, Joshua Lee Holby, 31, of Carlos and Barker’s friend, Steven Michael Samuel Powers, 20, of Benson repeatedly physically and sexually assaulted her  and threatened her with weapons. 

    Over the past week, the men took Block to several locations including a cornfield and a foreclosed property in Grant County.

    She escaped after the men left to get food. It was the first time she was left alone in 29 days.

    According to the complaint, after she escaped she ran from door to door of nearby properties in search of help. She eventually swam across a portion of Thompson Lake to a residential area in Barrett. She located a farmer around 1:30 p.m. and asked him to call 911. The farmer recognized her from the missing person flyers posted in the area.

    “A perfect example of being transparent, to be out there, to work with [the media] to get the information out there. To make sure the right thing could happen, to bring Jasmine home safe,” said Wyffels.

    The farmer, concerned for their safety, took Block to the nearby community of Elbow Lake. Block scrunched down in the truck so she could not be seen. As they were on the phone with emergency dispatchers she identified a vehicle used by  one of the men. Law enforcement was summoned and Powers was arrested.

    As she was being treated in an ambulance, law enforcement learned who her captors were, the other vehicle they used and that Barker had a handgun. Block was transported to the Douglas County Hospital. A search notice was issued to all local law enforcement. A state trooper near Glenwood spotted the vehicle. Barker and Holby were stopped and arrested.

    She shared with law enforcement what happened the night she was abducted. Barker was the father of one of her friends. He asked Block for her help with his son who was misbehaving. She got into his vehicle believing they would be going to a residence in Alexandria. When they arrived at his home in Carlos, he used zip ties to restrain her, brandished a fire arm and threatened to kill her. The majority of the time she was held in a closet.

    At one point she was restrained and placed in a bath tub where Barker tried to drown her, but gave up. He is believed to have cerebral palsy. In another incident she was placed in a duffle bag and tried to be drowned by Barker and Holby. She managed to stick her head through a hole in the bag. A third incident she was required to stand on a bucket with a rope placed around her neck. Holby forced her off the bucket and she described a period she could not breathe. Powers also forced her to snort a line of ‘white powder.’ She stated that Holby did not engage in any sexual activity with her.

    Powers stated that approximately two weeks ago, Barker had picked him up in Mankato and brought him to his residence in Carlos. He stated that while he was at the residence, Barker told him that he and Holby needed to leave for a short time. Barker instructed Powers not to go into Barker’s bedroom while he was gone. Powers stated that he became curious and went into Barker’s bedroom and discovered Block locked in Barker’s closet. Powers did not free her, nor did he contact law enforcement.

    On August 30, a deputy came to Barker’s residence and knocked on the door while all three defendants and Block were inside. The deputy was investigating a stolen property report. Powers stated that Block was in the closet and all three defendants remained silent until the deputy departed. He stated that after that incident, Barker decided that they needed to leave.

    The deputy left a note asking Barker to contact him. The following day, Barker called the deputy and stated that he was in Glenwood, and that he would call the deputy the following day to make arrangements to meet him at his Carlos residence. Barker never called.

    Block was transported from the Carlos location in a duffle bag in the back of a truck to the Barrett area. They stopped for the night in a cornfield near Glenwood.

    “[Block is an] unbelievable young woman. We are all proud of her on behalf of the police department, and emergency response people. It’s an amazing story when you have something like this happen and become a part of a very close family. 

    “She is an amazing young lady with a lot of strength. We think a lot of her family. Her mom was strong through this whole time and never gave up. Amazing people. The victim is now safe with her mother. All of us in this community are proud of her.”

    “This is an ongoing investigation. We are still learning many details about what happened,” said Wyffels.

    He is asking farmers in Grant, Douglas and Pope counties to check their fields for damage associated with a vehicle driving through it to help identify where the kidnappers took Block.

    They are also asking anglers at Thompson Lake to report any clothing found. Block lost her shoes and pants swimming across the lake.

    “We ask you respect the privacy of the family during this extremely difficult time,” said Wyffels.

    Agencies involved in assisting with the investigation are the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, FBI,  West Central Minnesota Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, Minnesota Department of Corrections, Minnesota State Patrol, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Grant County Sheriff’s Office, Glenwood Police Department, Alexandria Fire Department, Life Link, North Ambulance, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Ottertail County SWAT Team and Northstar Search and Rescue.

    “There is nothing more reassuring in my career of 34 years than to see a mother and her young daughter reunite and celebrate something as tragic as this. It’s a happy ending but the work isn’t done,” said Wyffels.

    Block’s mother Sarah posted this to the Help Bring Jasmine Block Home Facebook page:

    “I just want to say thank you for helping, for never giving up! I thank the law enforcement for being on top of everything working on their days off, not sleeping much, etc. For those that were negative shame on you! Three people have been arrested. I will not share any details as this is an ongoing investigation and I tell everyone to respect that. I also ask to respect Jasmine, myself and her sisters as we have been apart for four weeks and it’s been a lot so give us space. God answers prayers! I am so damn proud of her and so happy to have her home safe with us. Thank you all so much.”

    A prayer vigil was changed to a celebration for Block’s return which was held at the Living Waters Church in Alexandria on Friday evening, September 8.

    Charges were filed on September 7 against the three men. 

    Barker was charged with two counts of kidnapping, two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, assault in the second degree and false imprisonment.

    Holby was charged with two counts of kidnapping and false imprisonment.

    Powers was charged with kidnapping, criminal sexual conduct in the first degree,  and felony false imprisonment.

    All three are being held at the Douglas County Jail. Barker and Powers are being held on a $2 million cash bail or bond without conditions. Holby is being held on a $1.5 million cash bail or bond with no conditions.

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Block escaped captors after nearly a month in captivity

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