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Missing Utah college student found in basement, man arrested

December 20, 2021 GMT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah man is under arrest after authorities say a missing 19-year-old college student was found in his basement five days after she was last seen.

She was covered in coal and without her clothing when police located her during a search, according to arrest documents filed Sunday. She encountered the 39-year-old man in an online chat group and met up with him after a few weeks of exchanging messages. But after she arrived at his home, he held her against her will and sexually assaulted her, police documents said.

The Associated Press does not typically name alleged victims of sexual assault and is not identifying the suspect to avoid identifying the woman.

The student at Snow College in central Utah was last seen leaving her apartment the night of Dec. 13 and was reported missing the following day. Investigators tracked her cellphone to a small town about 90 miles (145 kilometers) away and eventually zeroed in on the man’s home.

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When police arrived Saturday, the man hid the student in a coal storage room and covered her in coal to hide her, without her clothes and with her hair cut, police documents state.

She later told police the conversation had initially seemed “positive” during text-message exchanges, but after he arrived to pick her up at the college, he took her phone and grew increasingly controlling and violent, sexually assaulting her several times.

The man described his behavior as a form of “role play,” but acknowledged he threw away her phone after seeing a missing-person’s report about her, according to police.

No attorney was immediately listed for him in court records.