At some point, a 41-year-old Duluth man removed his clothes and those of the 13-year-old girl he abducted Monday afternoon, but police didn't want to talk about that today.
Instead, Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay spoke of the young girl's courage and the collaborative police work that led to the arrest of Todd Richard Franik, who Ramsay said confessed to abducting the girl as she walked her dog near 70th Avenue West and Raleigh Street about 3 p.m. Monday.
The girl told police that a white man in a light-colored car pulled over and opened the hood and trunk as if he were having car problems. The victim was bound and gagged and she and her dog were forced into the suspect's trunk, before he drove to a site about a mile south of the Mont Du Lac Recreation/Ski Area along Highway 23, near the Spruce Trail entrance to Jay Cooke State Park, Ramsay said.
The suspect, however, then left the scene, allowing the girl to release herself and walk to the Wabegon Supper Club, Ramsay said. Witnesses said the girl had remnants of duct tape on her neck and wrists and was shaking when she entered the bar.
The girl arrived at the supper club in mid-afternoon. A small dog with her later was handed over to a Duluth police officer outside the bar. The officer put the dog, which had on a harness and collar, into the back of his squad car and later drove off with it.
"I want to make sure I commend the young victim in this case and recognize her for her courage, her inner strength and her endurance," Ramsay said. "Her attention to detail throughout this incident enabled us to make an arrest."
The girl was examined at a local hospital and released. Ramsay said she is in good condition and home with her family.
"This case shocks our conscious and we are very thankful that we were able to make an arrest in 24 hours," Ramsay said, adding that it was the cooperative work of several local, state and federal law enforcement agencies that helped spur the arrest.
Franik was arrested at the West Duluth K-Mart at 1:21 p.m. today after his vehicle was seen nearby. He's being held in the St. Louis County Jail on preliminary charges of kidnapping and second-degree criminal sexual conduct. He's expected to be arraigned in St. Louis County District Court later this week.
Ramsay said the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis are also reviewing the case for possible federal charges.
According to federal court records, Franik was sentenced in 1993 to 235 months in prison after being convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. In March of this year he tested positive for methamphetamine and was cited for a violation of his federal probation.
On his Facebook webpage, Franik wrote that he was in prison for 23 years "and I'm going to stay out.'' He said he was looking for an "attractive skinny/minny" to build a relationship with. He wrote that he was a 1987 Denfeld High School graduate and was working as a telemarketer from November 2009 until the present. On a second Facebook page he wrote that he was attending Lake Superior College this summer and that he was in a relationship.
Jennifer Falk of St. Paul, who describes herself as a homemaker, said in an e-mail Tuesday night that she was once Franik's fiancee. She said she met him on Feb. 14, 1990, when he was in the Oak Park Heights prison for robbery and the last time she saw him was on March 17, 1992.
"He was very open and very honest with me when we were a couple," she said. "It is very hard for me to believe he would do something like that."
Ramsay said Franik's criminal record includes theft, burglary and robbery convictions dating from 1985-87.
The area where the girl said she was taken is near the boundaries of St. Louis, Carlton and Douglas counties. Duluth Police spokesman Brad Wick said Franik could face federal charges if the crime crossed the Minnesota-Wisconsin state line.
Parked along Highway 23 in the woods across from an access to the Spruce Trail early today were eight unmarked vehicles, two Duluth Police Department squad cars, two St. Louis County Rescue vehicles and one Minnesota Department of Natural Resources pickup truck. Working at the scene in addition to Duluth police and St. Louis County Sheriff's Office investigators were personnel from Carlton County and the FBI. Douglas County officers were there earlier in the day.
"We have a lot of people assisting us from other agencies," said Duluth Police Lt. Scott Drewlo, head of the Violent Crimes Unit.
Just a block from Franik's home this evening, children played and their parents chatted at a National Night Out event at Salem Covenant Church.
The news of the abducted neighborhood girl and the quick arrest was on their minds.
"We want our kids to feel safe," said Cindee Johnson, an event organizer. "You have to be real, real aware and keep an eye on your kids coming and going."
News Tribune reporters Steve Kuchera and John Myers and Fox 21 News reporter Beth Jett contributed to this report.