A 28-year-old man who was released from prison in January has been charged with kidnapping an Alabama woman, who managed to escape from him after climbing out from the boot of her car.
Manuel Ali Towns was officially charged on Wednesday (22 March) after being arrested the previous day and booked into Jefferson County Jail, Birmingham Police announced.
Towns faces first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery charges for the 14 March abduction of 25-year-old Brittany Diggs, according to AL.com. The suspect also faces two counts of fraudulent use of a credit card after he attempted to use Diggs' card at a gas station. Towns' bond is set at $500,000 (£400,250).
The incident began when Towns allegedly pointed a gun at Diggs outside of her home and demanded money, said Sergeant Bryan Shelton. When Diggs told Towns she did not have money, he forced her into her own vehicle.
He later moved the victim to the trunk of her car and drove her to at least three different locations, AL.com reported.
Towns allegedly drove Diggs to a Gas Land gas station, where he attempted to withdraw cash from an ATM. Gas Land owner Yosef Alsabah said Towns attempted to withdraw more money than was in the account several times before asking for help. The owner told him to return later and try again with the ATM.
As Towns drove off, Alsabah saw the car's boot spring open and Diggs jump out. According to AL.com, she ran into the gas station, yelling, "Help me, please help me! He's been trying to rob me this whole time!" Her daring escape was caught on the gas station's surveillance cameras.
Diggs told NBC's Today how she used her insulin pump to escape the back of her car. "I'm holding the latch like this, waiting for him to get back in the car. He gets in [and] he's yelling ... and I feel the car reversing, and he's pulling out pretty fast, so I'm, like, 'Oh shoot — I better get out of here,'" she said.
"I just got the bright idea to use my insulin pump light, which is not a bright light, but it was bright enough to see. So I had to put it right on top of it to look and see for the latch," she added. She then dropped to the ground and ran inside the store.
Birmingham Police said that the victim did not know her attacker and noted that the kidnapping was a random act.
Lengthy criminal history
Towns has a lengthy criminal history dating back more than 10 years. He was released from prison on 13 January this year after serving five years and two months for possession of marijuana, AL.com reported. He was previously convicted and sentenced for two counts of first-degree robbery in 2005 and 2006.
Towns was caught by the department's Crime Reduction Team just outside the city limits of Birmingham.
"This was truly a complex, multi-faceted investigation and I am extremely proud of the various BPD units that worked around the clock to get this suspect behind bars," Birmingham Police Chief AC Roper said.
"This victim deserves justice and the peace of mind in knowing he'll face a criminal judge for his actions. Our streets are safer with him behind bars."