A young woman – possibly a teenager – was heard screaming for help shortly before dawn Monday north of Peru’s hospital, and police have recovered evidence she was forced into a sport-utility vehicle.
Peru police, the FBI and other local agencies now are seeking information on what they’re treating as an abduction.
Peru Police Chief Doug Bernabei said at a Monday press conference officers on duty were contacted shortly before 5 a.m. Monday by a resident in the area of Seventh and Plum streets. There, the resident was awakened to screaming and then “had a very clear view” of a struggle on Plum Street just south of Seventh Street near St. Margaret’s-Peru (formerly Illinois Valley Community Hospital).
“(The witness) can see a struggle where it appears that a woman is being taken forcibly against her will by one and/or two male individuals,” Bernabei said. “There is clearly a physical confrontation. The woman is screaming for help and it appears she is being taken against her will.”
Police arrived swiftly and retrieved unspecified physical evidence suggesting a struggle. Police also retrieved surveillance footage being digitally enhanced by the FBI and which suggests a white sport-utility vehicle. Bernabei said the un-enhanced footage suggests a Ford Explorer, Bronco or Expedition but neither the make nor model could be confirmed by the footage currently available.
“Now, it is very preliminary,” Bernabei said. “We have no idea if this is a stranger-type abduction or it’s a domestic-related abduction.”
A rapid-response team was dispatched by the FBI – Bernabei estimated eight federal agents were on scene – and La Salle County Sheriff’s Office and neighboring police departments had joined the investigation.
“We’re hoping when it’s all said in done we find this young lady – we don’t know if it’s a teenager, we don’t know if it’s a young woman in her 20s – based on this information,” Bernabei said.
Anyone with information pertinent to the case is asked to call (815) 223-2151, ext. 0 and ask to be patched in to the command center. Bernabei said investigators need help ascertaining key details including the woman’s identity – age estimates range from 14-16 years up through the mid-20s – to the make and model of the vehicle or any other identifying markers such as a plate number.
Additionally, Bernabei encouraged anyone with knowledge of a domestic situation to come forward with the understanding investigators’ top priority is the woman’s safe recovery.
The NewsTribune will update this story with any new information as it becomes available Monday.