The Fremont County Sheriff says there are questions about the claims of a Hamburg woman who says she was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and forced on a cross-country trip before she was found last week in Ohio. 42-year-old Debbie Sue Harrison told investigators she was driving on Interstate-29 late Wednesday night when she picked up a hitchhiker near the Hamburg exit. Fremont County Sheriff Steven MacDonald says the woman told them she thought she was picking up someone whose car had broken down — but the story may be breaking down, instead.He says his department’s never found a broken-down or out-of-gas vehicle in the Hamburg area or in the region southward from there into Missouri, or any sign that a man had abandoned a vehicle in that jurisdiction. Sheriff MacDonald says the woman claims the man got into her gold Ford pickup, pulled a gun, forced her to drive as far as Des Moines and raped her. Then she says they drove on to Ohio. In the early stages of the investigation, the sheriff says authorities found the woman had used an ATM twice at 9 P.M. Wednesday, in Hamburg. He says that and other discrepancies in the woman’s story had them suspicious of her story “from the very get-go.” The woman was found at a truck stop Friday night near the Ohio turnpike and was treated and examined at a local hospital. Sheriff MacDonald says while there’s doubt about the abduction part of her story, it seems clear events turned out badly. “Something happened to her,’ he says, even though he doesn’t think the woman was abducted in the manner she describes. But she left from the Hamburg interchange, a rape kit will show if she was sexually assaulted, and he says she definitely was beaten, as she has a black eye and bruises. “I think she got into a situation, was the victim of an assault, and possibly a sexual assault,” the sheriff says, “but there’s a question whether the abduction is valid.” The woman works as a caretaker and the sheriff says she’d been staying with an elderly woman she cared for and had gone to town to get some things Wednesday evening. She gave authorities in Toledo, Ohio, and Iowa a description of the man she says abducted her, though the sheriff says it isn’t specific enough to help much.He says the person is described as 5-foot-9 inches, 160 pounds, a white male with shoulder-length “blondish” hair and blue eyes. The Fremont county sheriff says it wasn’t a good idea to stop for a stranger, as the woman may have done.”If you’re a single female in a vehicle by yourself, it’s just crazy” to stop for anyone, he says. The sheriff says to call his office, dial 9-1-1 or call pound-55 or take any other option to send aid for the stranger but still keep yourself safe. Authorities in Polk County are involved, as the woman says she was raped in the truck when they stopped at a Des Moines area rest stop during the trip.
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