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Man accused of kidnapping Lewiston teen groomed her through Snapchat, court records say

During a court appearance, a victim’s advocate read this statement from the teen's mother: “There is not a number high enough to set a bond to release this man."

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — WARNING: This article contains graphic information about abuse of a minor.

Court records filed Wednesday detail how the man accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old girl from Lewiston groomed her and where they went while authorities were searching for them.

Jonathon Bowles, 36, is charged with attempting to elude a police vehicle, third-degree assault, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, obstructing a public officer, resisting arrest and second-degree kidnapping. Bowles made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon where a judge set his bond at $1 million. During the court appearance, a victim’s advocate read a statement from the teen’s mother that said, “There is not a number high enough to set a bond to release this man."

An AMBER Alert was issued on Monday before Bowles and the victim were found in Spokane Valley on Tuesday evening. Bowles is facing six criminal charges in Spokane. He will also have to face a judge in Lewiston to answer for possible child rape and kidnapping charges in Idaho.

Timeline

According to court documents, in March 2021, Bowles and the victim began communicating through the Snapchat app. He initially told her that was was 24 years old.

In April 2021, the victim made it clear to Bowles that she was 15 years old and a high school student. Bowles continued to keep consistent communication with the victim through December. 

Bowles told her he wanted to marry the victim and "was willing to wait three years" for her to turn 18, according to court documents.

Events on day of kidnapping through arrest of suspect

On Friday, Dec. 3, Bowles coordinated with the victim to meet him behind a church near the high school the victim attended. The victim met him at the church and she left her cellphone and laptop in the school library. Bowles also ditched his cell phone in an effort to be untraceable.

When the two met, Bowles told her he was leaving the Lewiston area to escape criminal charges of rape. From Lewiston, they drove to Oregon and purchased a pre-paid phone from Walmart. From Oregon, they went back to Idaho. 

The victim's mother and aunt both received a ransom text from an unknown phone number that is believed to be from the pre-paid phone. The message read:

"I told you I have [the victim] but you decided not to say anything about it or take it seriously. Now she is sick and wants to talk to her family over the phone. This is [expletive] important. I am not releasing her until I have a ransom of $7,000. I am sure you know what to do if you don't want me to make today horrible for you by killing her."

On Friday night, they stopped "in the middle of nowhere" to rest. According to court documents, the suspect then raped the victim. This crime came "well after" Bowles knew she was 15 years old and after he already took her across state lines, court documents say. 

The next day, the two left Bowles' car parked on a stranger's property and walked approximately "30 miles through farmland" until they reached Starbuck, Washington. There, they stole someone's car and headed for Spokane.

On Tuesday, in the Spokane area, police saw the car that matched the description of the AMBER Alert issued for the teen. The police tried to stop the vehicle, then Bowles drove over a cement median into ongoing traffic. A pursuit then started in Spokane Valley. 

Police lost sight of the car, then shortly after they saw a man who fit the description of the suspect and a "much shorter" girl with him. When police approached them, they ran. The suspect resisted arrest and punched the arresting officer multiple times, according to court documents.

The girl was placed in protective custody and then reunited with her family. 

Editor's note: This story originally noted that the suspect sent a ransom text message to the victim's family. However, the text came from an unknown number and it's unclear if the suspect sent the message. 

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