UPDATE: Woman found tied and gagged in trunk - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

UPDATE: Woman found tied and gagged in trunk

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Yakima, WASH.--Yakima Police said 44-year old Rodney Wheeler purchased duct tape, twine, two tarps and disguised himself as a pizza delivery man before kidnapping his ex-girlfriends daughter.

"This was a ruse that this guy felt was going to be able to get back in touch with this woman and lure her up to her daughter's house because he's using her daughters cell phone as if it was her," said Captain Rod Light of the Yakima Police Department.

Police went to the Canterwood Apartments around 9:30 p.m. Thursday after receiving a concerned phone call from Christine Photides.

Photides told officers that her daughter, Valerie Downing, was sending strange text messages to her. When police arrived, they found Wheeler climbing out a bedroom window.

Police said Wheeler quickly told officers he had stuffed downing in a duffel bag and left her in the trunk of his car in a parking lot behind the Yakima Airport.

"She was in the trunk probably given the timeline when this all started around two hours," said Captain Light.

Neighbors said they're shocked something like this would happen in such a quiet neighborhood.

"I was shocked," said a neighbor who asked to remain anonymous. "We never had any kind of disturbance or anything in this area so it was unusual, and I just assumed from what I could see and hear that it was a possible domestic or something of that nature."

Wheeler made his first appearance in a Yakima County Court Friday. He faces charges of burglary and kidnapping.

Bail is set at $1 million.


YAKIMA, Wash. - New details about a Richland man arrested in Yakima on kidnapping and burglary charges.

Police reports show 44 year old Rodney Wheeler disguised himself as a pizza delivery man, even buying a pizza to be convincing.

Police said Wheeler went to 20 year old Valerie Downing's apartment about 8:00 Thursday night. Downing is the daughter of his long time ex-girlfriend Christine Photides of Benton City.

Downing told officers Wheeler knocked on her door, rushed in, pushed her to the ground and put duct tape around her wrists, ankles and over her mouth. He then stuffed her in a large duffel bag, carried her to the trunk of his car and drove to the Yakima airport. At some point Photides got strange text messages from her daughter's phone asking her to come to Yakima to talk. The mother called police who arrived at Downing's apartment to find Wheeler climbing out a window.

He was arrested for burglary and told officers Downing was in his car at the airport. Police found Downing in the trunk of Wheeler's car still tied up with tape. She said she'd been in the trunk for about two hours.

The police reports mention the whole incident may have been a plan by Wheeler to get back in contact with Photides after their relationship had ended.


YAKIMA, Wash. - A Richland man is behind bars today after police say he kidnapped his ex-girlfriend's daughter.

Police say they responded to a phone call from the victim's mother who said she was getting strange text messages from her daughter's phone.

The police went to the victim's apartment along the 1500 block of Perry Loop, where they found a suspect, later identified as Rodney J. Wheeler, trying to climb out of her bedroom window. He was taken into custody at the scene.

Police say they found the victim tied and gagged with duct tape in Wheeler's car along the 2200 block of Ahtanum Road.

The victim was taken to a local hospital for treatment. Her name has not been released.


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