Police: Woman admits abduction for ransom; victim found dead

By Nicholas K. Geranios

The Associated Press

SPOKANE — A woman acknowledged kidnapping another woman and picking up a $250,000 ransom that authorities handed over in hopes of the safe return of the victim, but her body was found along a rural road in Washington state two days later, a police report said Monday.

Police tailed and arrested Theresa Wiltse, 49, after she got the ransom for Sandra Harris, 69, at a gourmet grocery store Friday night, the document said.

“Theresa confessed to being part of the kidnapping,” along with two men she identified only as “Jose” and “Jesus,” the report said.

But her “role appears to be much bigger than she claims,” police wrote, adding that blood was found in the backseat of Wiltse’s vehicle and it was being analyzed.

It was not immediately clear how Harris died, authorities said.

The kidnapping was not random — Wiltse knew the victim and her husband, Randy Harris, who owns a pawn shop in the city of Kennewick called Ace Jewelry and Loan, authorities said.

Wiltse lives in the small town of Connell about 40 miles away.

“The exact nature of how they are known to each other is still a part of this investigation,” police said in a statement.

A man who answered the phone at the pawn shop Monday said Randy Harris was not there and declined additional comment.

A driver found Sandra Harris’ body Sunday in arid scrubland along a road south of Kennewick, off Interstate 82, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said. An autopsy was scheduled later this week to determine how and when she died.

Police only have Wiltse in custody but said they were not ruling out the possibility of additional arrests.

“But we do not have any specific persons that we are looking for,” according to police in the community about 130 miles southwest of Spokane.

Harris was kidnapped Friday from her Kennewick home, police said.

Harris called her husband at work from her cellphone to say the kidnapper was demanding money, they said.

The FBI joined local police in contacting the suspect and negotiating for several hours before agreeing to meet up in rural Franklin County that night to pay the ransom.

Shortly afterward, a SWAT team arrested Wiltse near the tiny community of Eltopia. She was driving a rental car with California plates.

Wiltse was booked on suspicion of kidnapping. It was not immediately clear if she had obtained a lawyer.