Michigan Woman Shares Story of Survival After Being Kidnapped
A Northern Michigan woman is speaking out after the man who stalked her for 13 years kidnapped her and held her captive in a soundproof bunker.
Samantha Stites was determined to not address the man who stole her freedom as she read her victim impact statement in court, saying, "He has not honored my requests nor shown he values my thoughts or feelings in over a decade."
Christopher Thomas was sentenced to serve 40 to 60 years in prison for his role in torturing Stites.
Stalking Began 13 Years Ago
Samantha Stites shared her story with Up North Live. She tells the TV station she met Thomas in 2011 when she was in college. At first, she befriended the man and tried to help him feel included by making conversation with him and introducing him to people she knew.
But Thomas' actions soon became aggressive. He followed her to another state when she took an internship after graduation and she was forced to file a personal protection order. That PPO expired in 2020, and she began noticing him showing up where she was after she moved back to northern Michigan.
"I ran into him in public, especially the last two years a lot more than anyone would. Even in a town as small as Traverse City," said Stites. "I would see him at the gym at the grocery store, different places and I had this concern that I was being followed.
Her request for a second PPO was denied.
Kidnapping Inspired by a Crime TV Show
Investigators confirm that Thomas broke into Stites' home in October 2022 and brought her and her dog to a soundproof bunker that he had constructed in a rental storage unit in Grand Traverse County.
Stites said his actions were inspired by a crime TV show that Thomas had watched.
"You know the one where the guy has this unhealthy obsession with a woman and creates this whole box that he puts her in like a little prison so to speak and he has said that had inspired him," she said.
Convincing Him to Let Her Go
Stites works as a mental health profession. She says she ascertained that Thomas' biggest fear was going to prison, so she convinced him that she would not go to the police if he let her go free. She also told him that they could remain friends.
She went on to say that after she escaped, she was concerned that authorities would not believe she had been kidnapped and raped.
Educating Others to Know the Danger Signs
Today, Stites hopes that sharing her experience will help others know the danger signs and seek protection from potential stalkers.
"I would want other women or people in general to know how to identify those signs that somebody is potentially stalking you or is at risk of harming you in some way," said Stites. "Knowing some things that you can do, places you can go to get help, and really advocating for yourself if you've got a gut feeling that something's wrong, it likely is and really pursuing that and I felt like I did that to the best of my ability."
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