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A missing Utah college student has been found alive after investigators discovered her hidden in a man’s basement coal room, covered in coal dust, in what her family has described as a “dangerous and traumatic” experience.
Brent Brown, 39, has been arrested on suspicion of obstruction of justice, aggravated kidnapping and assault in connection with the disappearance of Madelyn Allen, a 19-year-old student at Snow College, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.
Madelyn was last seen leaving her dormitory residence around 9:22 p.m. on December 13, carrying a plastic bag and wearing a white fleece jacket, according to Snow College. She was reported missing the next day by her roommates after she failed to return home—launching an extensive investigation to find the college student.
Investigators learned that the night she disappeared, Madelyn had arranged to have a man she had allegedly met in an online “chat group,” pick her up at the dorm, according to the court documents.
Authorities say the man became violent in the days that followed, tying Madelyn up whenever he left the house, taking her phone away and threatening her “saying that if she left or told anyone about him, he would come after her family and sister,” the affidavit said.
Madelyn was only allowed to text her family once on the morning of Dec. 14, authorities said. She texted one of her parents, "I love you," according to the New York Post.
Police used data from a cell phone information tower to track Madelyn to the small town of Loa and began knocking on doors until they spotted a person with light colored hair and a slight build in the basement of one of the homes.
Yet, when they knocked on the door of the home, the man who answered said he was the only one at the home. Police secured a search warrant and returned a short time later to find Madelyn alive in a basement coal room, covered in coal dust.
“Our investigative team has spent countless hours following leads, utilizing investigative tools, interviewing others and analyzing data,” Derek Walk, the Chief of Police for Snow College, said in a press conference announcing the discovery. “That focus, dedicated, selfless hard work of multiple law enforcement officers paid off last night when Madelyn was located.”
Walk identified Brown as the man living in the Loa home and said investigators are still trying to piece together various elements of the alleged crime.
“We don’t have a lot of information about him,” he said. “We met him for the first time last night and we don’t know how extensive his relationship or her knowledge of him is thus far.”
Madelyn’s father, Jonathan Allen, also spoke briefly at the press conference to describe the moment he got a call from Walk and learned his daughter had been found alive.
“He said, ‘I have her’ and we dropped to our knees,” Jonathan said. “We were so grateful, elated, couldn’t describe the feelings that we had as we embraced each other.”
Jonathan said the family had experienced a “roller coaster of emotions” in the days following their daughter’s disappearance.
Madelyn’s uncle, Jacob Allen, called her ordeal “dangerous and traumatic.”
“She is a fighter,” he said. “She is now a survivor. We are grateful she is with us again so we can help her heal and recover.”
Madelyn’s mother, Taunya Allen, expressed her gratitude for all those who worked to bring her daughter home.
“We are so excited to have our Maddie home,” she said at the press conference. “We love her so much and she has been such a light and a joy in our lives and we are so grateful that we can continue our lives together with her.”
“We pray for our sweet Maddie as she moves forward that she can find hope and happiness and joy in her future,” she added.
Brad Cook, the president of Snow College, said during the briefing that while the episode demonstrates what is possible when the community joins together for the common good, it also serves as a cautionary reminder about the dangers lurking online.
“We just have to be ever vigilant about those kinds of interactions and the threats that are there,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Sanpete County Attorney's Office told Oxygen.com that no formal charges have been filed yet against Brown.
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