A Georgia college student who was raped and kidnapped last fall has shared the harrowing details of her experience — including how she saved her own life with some smart thinking and smart technology.
Jaila Gladden, 21, was shopping at a grocery store one night in September 2017 when a stranger pressed a knife to her stomach, forced her into her car, raped her, and tried to drive her all the way to Michigan in a terrifying kidnapping attempt.
The man, later identified by authorities as Timothy Wilson, didn’t manage to get out of state, though, because Jaila led the police right to them with a smartphone and some very clever, clear-headed maneuvering, which she recently recounted to BuzzFeed.
Heroic: Jaila began sending texts to her boyfriend, Tamir Bryant, telling him what had happened to her and he immediately alerted the police to her whereabouts
On September 4, the University of West Georgia senior left her Carrollton, Georgia apartment just before midnight to drive to a Kroger grocery store.
After she made her purchase, surveillance video from the store captured her walking in the well-lit parking lot to her car when a stranger approached her.
She told BuzzFeed that the man followed her right up to her car, where he held a knife to her stomach and ordered her to get in.
He climbed into the driver’s seat, and started to drive toward Atlanta, which was 50 miles away.
Before they got there, they made a stop; the man pulled over into the back of an abandoned church, told her to take off her clothes, and raped her, telling her there was ‘no purpose in crying’ as she begged him to let her go.
Following the rape, they got back on the road. The man said he was going drive to Michigan, and charged Jaila with finding a gas station for him to rob first.
That’s when Jaila had her bright idea. She convinced the man that she needed her phone to look up the locations of gas stations and help him navigate there. Surprisingly, he gave it to her — but she took no chances.
She turned the brightness of the screen down as far as it would go so as not to draw attention, then opened up a text to her boyfriend, Tamir Bryant.
She then used her iPhone’s ‘share my location’ feature to send him her GPS data.
‘It was the most logical thing to do,’ she said.
Because she didn’t want the man to catch her, Jaila was cautious with her texts, firing off only short messages. When Tamir asked why she was all the way in Atlanta, she replied, ‘Kid napped.’
Though Tamir told her to ‘stop playing,’ he didn’t seem to actually doubt that she was in trouble, and quickly followed up with, ‘I’m headed to the police station.’
‘I immediately realized it was serious,’ he told BuzzFeed later. ‘She would never play like that. She would never say that for no reason.’
Unsuspecting, the kidnapper nonetheless took the phone away and forced Jaila into the trunk of the car during his attempted (but unsuccessful) gas station robbery.
When he wanted to try again at a grocery store, Jaila again said she needed her phone to guide him. Once there, she was forced into the trunk without her phone once more.
Jaila was only able to fire off a quick line at a time, telling her boyfriend that they were in her car and she didn’t want police approaching with sirens.
‘I don’t want him to kill me,’ she wrote.
The whole time, Tamir was able to track Jaila’s location and provided updates for the police there. As they approached, an officer in the parking lot where the kidnapper had stopped noticed the idle car, which matched the description he’d heard on the scanner.
When the officer started getting closet to the car, the kidnapper saw him and tried to speed off, ignoring drawn weapons and several cars along the way, which he crashed into.
Finally, the kidnapper crashed into a fence, and managed to escape over it by foot. Jaila, though, was safe, and ran toward the police.
‘If I didn’t get the location, who knows what would have happened,’ her boyfriend said later. ‘Her doing it on her own — she was able to outsmart the bad guy.’
While Jaila thinks better parking lot security could have prevented her kidnapping, Carrollton police nonetheless said in a statement that others could learn from her and keep their own location services turned on.
On an iPhone, this can be achieved by going to Settings, Privacy, and Location Services, and turning on the ‘Share My Location’ feature.
Locations are not shared unless an iPhone user to chooses to send them, which is done by clicking the Applications icon at the bottom of a text message, selecting the Maps or Google Maps apps, and agreeing to send location.
Though the kidnapper fled the scene, ten hours later police arrested a man by the name of Timothy Wilson.
He has since been charged with kidnapping, hijacking a motor vehicle, aggravated assault, rape, aggravated sodomy, false imprisonment, and aggravated assault against a police officer.