Woman located uninjured after Peru abduction

Police continue search for her alleged abductor

“We are pleased to report she’s safe, she’s sound, she’s in a secure location in Peoria, Illinois.”

—  Peru Police Chief Doug Bernabei

A woman in her 20s — not a teenager, as first thought — abducted early Monday in Peru has been located and is uninjured, police announced at a 4 p.m. Tuesday news conference.

“We are pleased to report she’s safe, she’s sound, she’s in a secure location in Peoria, Illinois,” Peru Police Chief Doug Bernabei said.

The search continues for her abductor. An unrelated warrant from La Salle County remains in place for 27-year-old Bobby A. Cross of Peoria. When apprehended on the warrant, police said, Cross will be questioned at length about the physical struggle reported early Monday at Seventh and Plum streets in Peru.

Bernabei said a succession of tips — “the phones were ringing nonstop” — led to a key break in the case Tuesday morning and to locating the as-of-yet unnamed woman in the Peoria apartment that she shares, or had shared, with Cross.

Bernabei said the abduction was “domestic related,” not an abduction involving a stranger. He cautioned that abduction-related charges might not be filed given the still-fluid circumstances, as Cross and the victim had dated and resided together. Nevertheless, police have assured many worried parents there is no cause for alarm.

“I believe there’s no threat to the Illinois Valley community with respect to this individual,” Bernabei said.

Bernabei outlined a rough sequence of events leading up to the woman’s abduction. Cross and the woman had been at a group event in La Salle and, early Monday, an argument or dispute arose while they were riding together.

The woman got out of the vehicle and either was followed or located, at which point Cross is said to have forced her back into the vehicle. It was at that point a resident heard a woman screaming for help and witnessed a physical confrontation — police were alerted at 4:57 a.m. Monday — a struggle that was confirmed when police discovered a woman’s sandal at the scene minutes later.

The preliminary report prompted Bernabei to make two pivotal calls: one to the FBI to active the agency’s Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team, and the second to Sheriff Tom Templeton to assemble the major case squad. Later in the investigation, police ascertained the abducted woman was not a minor.

“Her stature would clearly indicate she could be mistaken for a 14- to 16-year-old juvenile,” Bernabei said.

(Preliminary also reports suggested two male abductors. Bernabei said the full sequence of events remains under review, but said Cross is believed to be the primary actor in the woman’s disappearance.)

Meanwhile, police quickly seized surveillance images of a white SUV and searched additional security cameras throughout the region. The vehicle, since confirmed as a white Ford Excursion, was picked up on video traveling to Spring Valley and then Peoria via Route 29.

Among the many responding agencies were police in Peoria, where the victim was found about 11 a.m. Tuesday at an apartment shared with Cross.

Peru police Cmdr. Sarah Raymond said the woman was uninjured and did not require medical attention.

Police didn’t merely find the victim. Inside the apartment were two guns, one fitted with a noise suppressor. Cross, who is wanted for failing to pay fines after a 2017 aggravated battery conviction, could potentially face a charge of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon atop whatever charges emerge from the investigation.

“Ultimately, we’re going to locate this guy,” Bernabei said.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins covers criminal justice in La Salle County.