KC woman’s cellphone helps authorities free her from kidnapper

Thanks to her cellphone, a 23-year-old Kansas City woman allegedly kidnapped by a neighbor is safe.

Authorities traced her to a rural area in southwest Benton County, Mo., as she repeatedly dialed 911.

Her accused kidnapper, Brian Eugene Stidham, 50, of Kansas City, is charged with felonious restraint and unlawful use of a weapon. He is being held on $150,000 bond in the Benton County Jail, said Sheriff Rick Fajen.

The woman knew Stidham from her neighborhood, Fajen said.

He asked her for a ride Monday morning and allegedly pulled a gun on her after entering her car, Fajen said.

Stidham allegedly told the woman to drive to the Truman Lake area.

About 1 p.m., the woman called 911, reached Benton County dispatchers and asked for help, Fajen said.

But her call kept cutting out, so she had to make several calls.

“The area they were in is very rural and not very populated,” Fajen said. “She was lucky to have any phone signal at all.”

Each time her call was dropped, she called back when she could, the sheriff said.

Authorities pinged the phone a couple of times and traced it to an area near Truman Lake. The first time, it was on the Benton County side of the reservoir and the second on the St. Clair County side.

Dispatchers alerted officers in Benton and St. Clair counties as well as the ranger on duty at the lake for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

With information gathered by Benton County dispatchers, the ranger found the vehicle in St. Clair County and followed it from a distance.

The ranger saw the vehicle cross into Benton County and pull up to a residence about 150 feet into the county.

Because they were the closest, deputies from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department crossed into Benton County and found Stidham behind the house, allegedly holding a handgun. He dropped the gun when ordered by deputies to do so.

He was taken into custody without incident and held until Benton County sheriff’s deputies arrived. He was booked into the Benton County Jail.

Benton County is south of Sedalia and east of Clinton.

Fajen declined to discuss a motive, saying there were other agencies investigating possible charges.

It wasn’t known why Stidham pulled up to that residence in Benton County. Fajen said Stidham had ties years ago to the area and might have been looking for an old family farm. Authorities believe he was trying to find something that looked familiar.

He apparently knew the ranger was following him, the sheriff said.

“Anytime you have a situation like this and you’re able to resolve it without injuries, you’re extremely pleased,” Fajen said.