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FBI looks for abducted Washington woman after ransom demand

Sandra Harris (Kennewick Police Department / Kennewick Police Department)
Sandra Harris (Kennewick Police Department / Kennewick Police Department)
Associated Press

KENNEWICK, Wash. – The FBI and local law enforcement agencies are looking for a Washington state woman after she was abducted from her Kennewick home and a ransom was demanded.

Kennewick Police Sgt. Ken Lattin said 69-year-old Sandra Harris was taken Friday by someone she knew. Lattin said her abductor then used Harris’ cellphone to call her husband at work to demand an undisclosed amount of money in exchange for her return.

“This was not a random act,” Lattin said. “They’re not related. We’re not exactly sure what the nature of the relationship was, but this was not random.”

Local and federal law enforcement agencies contacted a kidnapper and negotiated for several hours, ultimately agreeing to pay the ransom.

Authorities made the money exchange just before 10 p.m. near the town of Eltopia, and shortly after they arrested a suspect: 49-year-old Theresa Wiltse of Connell, Washington.

Wiltse was driving a rental car with California plates, according to a statement from police, and she was the only person in the car.

Wiltse is being held in the Benton County jail without bond on suspicion of kidnapping. It wasn’t immediately clear if she had retained an attorney.

“There’s possibly another suspect or suspects involved, or it’s possible she acted alone,” Lattin said. He said they didn’t know what condition Harris is in or where she might be.

Abductions for ransom are rare in the United States.

“They are unusual for us here as well,” Lattin said. “I’ve been here 28 years, our chief has been here 35 years plus, and that’s not something that has happened during our lifetime here in Kennewick.”

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