A Virginia woman who remains missing after an alleged kidnapping by her husband had called police several times the day she disappeared to report that her husband was violating a restraining order.
Police released new details today about the 12 hours leading up to the alleged kidnapping of Roberta Caskey by her husband Timothy Caskey on July 14. The 40-year-old man has a long history of domestic violence, police said, and now faces federal kidnapping charges.
Advocates for domestic violence victims said the case highlights the importance of a new initiative to identify high-risk offenders and share information with prosecutors, police, probation officers and advocates.
On the morning of July 14, Timothy Caskey was released from Northeast Regional Correctional Center near Duluth after serving 50 days of a 90-day sentence for violating a domestic violence no contact order and making harassing phone calls to his estranged wife.
Less than an hour after Caskey was released, his wife notified police that she had received a phone call from him, in violation of an order for protection. Roberta Caskey, 44, said she hung up the phone when she realized it was her husband. Later that morning, she called police to report more phone calls.
Virginia police detective Tim Koivunen said the calls Roberta Caskey received came from different numbers, including some numbers that were blocked. The police called one of the numbers, but did not reach Caskey. Instead, police said, a construction worker answered and said he was working outside a few miles from the jail when a stranger approached and asked to use his phone.
Koivunen said authorities knew Timothy Caskey had a history of abusing his wife, but he said officers didn't have enough evidence to prove he was the person making the calls. Police warned Roberta Caskey to stay inside and keep a phone nearby in case she needed to call 911.
In the meantime, Timothy Caskey continued to make his way to Virginia, Minn. He was found two blocks from his wife's house, outside a homeless shelter, sometime between 3 and 4 p.m.
Officers questioned him outside the shelter, but Caskey denied making the phone calls. Police searched him, but didn't find a cell phone. They told him to avoid any contact with his wife and to stay at the shelter overnight, Koivunen said.
Then officers saw him walk away from the shelter. They did not follow him.
About four hours later, police received a 911 call from someone who reported seeing Timothy Caskey grab his wife and throw her into a pickup truck. She struggled, and two people tried to intervene, but Timothy Caskey fought them off and fled with his wife before police arrived, according to an FBI affidavit. Both Timothy and Roberta Caskey have been missing ever since.
Two days after the alleged abduction, two people matching the Caskeys' descriptions stopped at an auto dealership in New Braunfels, Texas, authorities said. The man asked to test-drive a white pickup truck and handed over a driver's license bearing the name Timothy Caskey. The man and woman left the lot and didn't return.
Federal authorities said they might be headed to Mexico. The FBI is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Timothy Caskey, who is "considered armed and dangerous."
BARRIERS TO PREVENTING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Advocates for domestic violence victims said police did everything that could to prevent the incident.
"Perpetrators are very savvy in the tactics that they use," said Bobbi Holtberg, program manager at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. "And so it's not possible to predict and know their next move and how they're going to try to get at the victim."
Koivunen, the detective, said police lacked enough evidence to prevent the alleged kidnapping.
"Hindsight is 20/20," he said. "We can't treat Tim any different at the time than we would treat anybody else in public. And obviously we can't put an officer following somebody 24-7. I mean people have choices, and we can't always control those."
Koivunen said it's not uncommon for police to have problems tracking phone calls from blocked numbers or other cell phones.
"You try to use the information you have at the time and the resources available," he said. "Obviously in this case, he was trying to cover his steps by not having any evidence that he was calling."
The incident occurred just a few months after advocates and local law enforcement began work on a program to identify, track and punish high-risk offenders. The program is still in the planning stages, but Holtberg said it could help prevent future domestic violence crimes by sharing more information with prosecutors and probation officers. That could lead to tougher sentences for some offenders and tighter restrictions for high-risk offenders on probation.
Holtberg praised local law enforcement officials and advocates who she said have been working closely together for years to create innovative and effective ways to prevent domestic violence.
"I think even in places where the best work is happening, this can happen," she said. "I think this has renewed the commitment ... that we have to step up our efforts and be even more diligent than we have been."
FBI Requests Assistance
Authorities describe Caskey as a white man, 6'3, 185 pounds, with brown eyes. A statement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office said the 40-year-old "is known to frequent campgrounds and rural back roads."
Authorities said Roberta Caskey is a white woman, 5'7, 135 pounds, with brown hair.
The FBI has asked that anyone with information about the case call the FBI at 612-376-3200.