After three weeks of being held in a locked bedroom of a Bethlehem rooming house where she was raped, shot with a BB gun and beaten, the woman plotted her escape when her captor left a key ring behind, authorities said.
Her captor -- identified by police as Steven Kitchell, 34 -- kept her locked inside the third-floor bedroom at 826 Montclair Ave., where he also beat and sexually assaulted her, the 21-year-old woman told authorities.
She said Kitchell took her phone, wallet and gave her heroin. She said she never left the room without him and he stayed by her side even when he took her to the bathroom or forced her to do laundry in a shared basement of the home, according to police.
But on June 15, police said, Kitchell left his key ring behind in the bedroom. The woman told police she tried several keys until she found the one that unlocked the bedroom door. She then "hid the key on her person" until Kitchell left the house, according to court records, which don't say how she knew he was gone.
The woman then used the key to unlock the door, threw the key behind a radiator and fled . After she told authorities at a hospital that she had been held captive, police went to the house, but Kitchell was not there.
Police caught up with Kitchell on Wednesday night in Newark, N.J., where he was arrested by Newark's police fugitive squad.
Bethlehem police Detective Tom Galloway said Friday the investigation continues and there might be a second victim. Additional charges against Kitchell are pending, police said.
Kitchell is charged with kidnapping, rape, false imprisonment, sexual assault, indecent assault and simple assault. He is being held at the prison in Essex County and is awaiting extradition to Pennsylvania.
The Montclair Avenue home where Kitchell lived is in a residential Bethlehem neighborhood just a short walk from Lehigh University. Many of the homes in the area are rented by Lehigh students.
Police said that while they were called to some "minor calls" at the home in the past year, none involved Kitchell or the victim, said police Sgt. Robert Urban.
A Lehigh student who lives a few doors away said she saw people frequently come and go from the house, but heard nothing suspicious.
"This is awful. Really scary," said the student, who would not give her name for fear of reprisal. "We knew police were there recently looking for something, but we weren't sure why."
The home is owned by Hugh and Mariette Lawrence, according to Northampton County property records. Although police referred to it as a "rooming house," it is zoned as a single-family home, according to court records. Hugh Lawrence could not be reached for comment Friday.
The day the woman escaped, police served a search warrant at the home and found a wallet that matched the description given by the woman held captive, according to court records.
Police also took mail belonging to Kitchell, a digital scale, various electronics, a woman's undergarment and a bag containing pieces of a broken phone, according to a search warrant inventory filed Friday.
According to court records:
The woman told police she met Kitchell on May 22 when she was invited to the home by another woman. After spending the night, the woman said she awoke the next day and was told by a man who lived there that she could not leave.
Kitchell, who went by the nickname "Lodi," took her wallet, which contained her birth certificate and Social Security card.
She said Kitchell kept her inside his bedroom and secured the door with a dead-bolt lock. He would not allow the victim to leave unattended, but did provide her with bags of heroin. Court records do not say whether she took the drug.
According to the search warrant inventory, Kitchell had 150 bags of heroin that he divided into three piles that he hid in a garbage bag. The woman told police that she believed Kitchell was hiding the drugs in a shared basement at the Montclair Avenue home.
The woman said if Kitchell left the home, he took the drugs with him.
She said he beat her "on numerous occasions," shooting her once in the leg with a BB gun. She said Kitchell also hit her in the face with the gun.
Police said Kitchell raped and sexually assaulted the woman.
She told police that in the bedroom, she saw "numerous bullets" for handguns. She said Kitchell once showed her a loaded handgun and said he had gotten the gun to "deal with" the woman.
The woman said that during her last week in the home, another woman was also staying there.
In 2011, Kitchell was sentenced to three years in prison in Essex County for a charge of unlawful possession of a weapon, according to court records. He was released in August 2012.
Court records show Kitchell also was convicted of charges in New Jersey, including possession of drugs, dealing drugs near a school and receiving stolen property.
Anyone with information about the Montclair Avenue case is asked to call Detective Thomas Galloway at 610-997-7976.
Copyright 2013 - The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
McClatchy-Tribune News Service