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Teen safe after being kidnapped by stranger; suspect arrested in Salt Lake City

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Posted at 12:05 PM, Jan 23, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — A 26-year-old man was arrested and accused of kidnapping a 14-year-old girl in Salt Lake City after trying to lure her into his vehicle with alcohol and food.

Jonathan Simonji was booked into jail on one count of second-degree kidnapping, a felony charge.

Officials report Simonji was in a car near 700 South 300 East and pulled up next to the teenager while she was walking home. He allegedly attempted to lure her inside his car with alcohol and food, police said.

The girl refused and tried running away, but Simonji forcefully put her in his car and drove the teen to a home where he continued to offer her alcohol and would not let her leave, the Salt Lake City Police Department said in a statement.

Officers reported the teen told them she downloaded the SafeUT app to call for help because she couldn't get in touch with any friends or family members. The phone call from the app came in just after 3 a.m. Saturday, according to police

After being alerted, officials responded and engaged in two hours of "in-person communication" before Simonji was convinced to come out of the house and was taken into custody.

Police said Simonji and the teenager did not know each other and the incident is believed to be stranger-related.

"The SLCPD reminds community members to always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. If you can, make sure you walk with someone you know and trust. Although safety apps and text to 9-1-1 are increasingly becoming more popular, the SLCPD reminds community members that often, the fastest way to reach help in an emergency is by calling 9-1-1."