A woman’s harrowing escape from a Missouri basement where she was sexually assaulted and held captive for weeks made national headlines earlier this month.
On Friday, the nonprofit newspaper The Kansas City Defender reported another disturbing factor in the case. Around the time of the woman’s disappearance from a Kansas City neighborhood, community members had reportedly expressed worry about a possible serial killer, citing the disappearance of multiple Black women and girls. But Kansas City Police dismissed their concerns.
The 22-year-old Black woman told police that Timothy M. Haslett Jr. had abducted her and imprisoned her in a basement room in Excelsior Springs ― a city just northeast of Kansas City. There, he whipped and raped her repeatedly, she said. On Oct. 7, after about a month in the basement, she fled and sought help from neighbors while the man was taking his child to school. When she escaped, she was still wearing a metal collar locked with a padlock that authorities had to remove.
The woman also said she had friends who “didn’t make it” and claimed that the man had killed them, Ciara Tharp, one of the neighbors who helped her, told local news station KCTV 5. The Excelsior Springs Police Department confirmed to The Daily Mail that it was “actively investigating” the possibility of “two more women victims.”
In the meantime, Haslett, who is white, has been arrested in the case. The 39-year-old pleaded not guilty last week to charges including rape, kidnapping and assault.
Before the woman’s escape, claims about murdered and missing Black women in Kansas City had gone viral on social media. The Kansas City Defender also published a video in which community leader Bishop Tony Caldwell spoke about the issue, citing a specific stretch of Prospect Avenue where women had gone missing. That same location is where the escaped woman would later say she had been abducted.
At the time, Kansas City Police called the claims “completely unfounded,” saying in a statement that “there is no basis to support this rumor.”
On Saturday, police spokesperson Officer Donna Drake told HuffPost that the department made its prior statement because it had not received any formal missing person reports.
“We base our investigations on reports made to our department,” she said in an email. “There have been no reports made to our department of missing persons, more specifically women, missing from Prospect Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri. In order to begin a missing person’s investigation, someone would need to file a report with our department identifying the missing party.”