(CNN) — A woman who had been kidnapped nearly a year ago while traveling across the country made a dramatic escape from her abductor after concocting an escape plan to a New Jersey gas station, authorities said Friday.
James W. Parrillo Jr., 57, was charged with kidnapping a woman he met in New Mexico last year, traveling with her to New Jersey and assaulting her at a Burlington County home where they were renting a room, according to a statement. of New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin.
Gas station owner Bobby Madaan told CNN the woman ran into his business on February 7 and heard her screams from his office. She ran into the store and closed the door behind her.
Madaan said she saw a man running after the woman, but unable to enter the closed gas station, she turned and walked away.
“I was in shock, I was crying,” Madaan said. “She told us that she had been kidnapped for about a year,” she added.
The woman had marks on her neck and was wearing shorts and a shirt with no shoes, Madaan told CNN, adding that the woman told him she had started planning her escape after seeing a bolt on the gas station door during a previous visit. The woman had planned to escape her kidnapper by running to the gas station and locking herself inside it whenever she got the chance, Madaan said.
Parrillo followed the woman to the gas station and tried to open the door, but left when he found it locked, according to authorities.
A customer gave the woman a pair of his wife’s shoes and a jacket while they waited for the police to arrive, Madaan said.
After assuring the woman that she was safe, Madaan said they both called the police. Parrillo was arrested shortly thereafter, on February 7, the attorney general said.
Parrillo and the woman had been in the rented room for about two weeks before she managed to escape after being assaulted, according to the statement. The woman ran out of the house wearing nothing more than shorts and a T-shirt in 42 degree F (5 degrees Celsius) weather, the prosecutor said.
They met at a gas station in New Mexico.
The woman met the suspect, whom she called “Brett Parker,” at a gas station on Interstate 10 in New Mexico sometime in February 2022, according to authorities.
At his request, she agreed to take him to Arizona, authorities said. The woman herself said that she was in a consensual relationship with the man she knew as Parker for about a month when he physically assaulted her while in California, at which time she felt unable to leave the relationship.
During their time together, Parrillo allegedly took the woman’s phone, confiscated and used her debit cards and isolated her from her family, authorities said. The couple arrived in New Jersey sometime in December.
Platkin called it a “deeply disturbing case.”
“We are in contact with law enforcement in all jurisdictions to identify other individuals who may have additional information about the defendant. Our investigation is ongoing and we are committed to doing everything we can to ensure justice is served for the survivor,” Platkin said.
New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Patrick J. Callahan said: “The strength and bravery of the female victim who successfully escaped her assailant is heroic to say the least.”
“The allegations of kidnapping and abuse at the hands of the defendant represent a year-long nightmare endured by the victim across multiple states across the country and finally coming to an end here in New Jersey,” Callahan said.
Parrillo is charged with kidnapping, strangulation and aggravated assault, among other charges, according to Platkin. Parrillo also faces charges for refusing to provide a DNA sample.
The suspect is being held at the Burlington County Jail awaiting trial.
CNN has reached out to an attorney on Parrillo’s list and has not yet received a response.