Case closed: Abductor never found, public never warned

Eight months after an Albemarle County woman reported getting abducted from her home and being forced to drive at gunpoint some 300 miles down the Blue Ridge Parkway, authorities aren't close to an arrest– in fact, they've stopped looking.

"A thorough investigation by our office was conducted, which included multiple interviews," writes FBI spokesperson Dee Rybiski in an email. "Unfortunately, the investigation and information provided failed to develop any viable leads or identify any potential suspects."

The details of the the June 23, 2011 incident may have been hazy, but they were terrifying.

The then-42-year-old woman– a nurse named Kelly Porterfield– described her gun-wielding kidnapper as slim and short, wearing a mask and sunglasses, according to a news report at the time. The report noted that Porterfield was held captive in her red Honda Odyssey minivan all the way to an overlook in the mountains of North Carolina. When the alleged assailant took her into a forest, Porterfield somehow freed herself and found assistance from a passerby.

While authorities conducted an extensive search of the mountainous, wooded area in which Porterfield reportedly escaped an abductor's clutches, they came up empty-handed, and one North Carolina investigator suggested there might be more to the story.

"We're not sure how valid this claim is," Parkway Chief Ranger Steve Stinnett told the Watauga Democrat.

Later contacted by the Hook, Stinnett refused to elaborate on his earlier comment, referring all media inquiries to the FBI, which assumed control over the multi-state case. The federal agency never issued a public alert nor released a composite image that might have helped lead to the capture of a potential abductor.

While the FBI's Rybiski says the investigation is now closed, she declines to release any specific findings. And that, says legal analyst Debbie Wyatt, raises troubling questions.

"If the abduction really did exist, the community ought to know," says Wyatt. "And if it didn't exist, the community ought to know."

Faked abductions are rare but not unheard of. In April 2005, a Georgia woman named Jennifer Carol Wilbanks gained national infamy as "the runaway bride" after disappearing four days before her wedding. A massive search ensued, and Wilbanks eventually surfaced in Albuquerque, New Mexico, claiming to have been abducted and sexually assaulted by a hispanic man and a white woman.

Eventually admitting to filing a false report, Wilbanks was charged with a felony to which she pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two years probation, 120 hours of community service, and $2,250 in restitution to the Gwinett County Sheriff's Office to reimburse search and investigation expenses.

Wyatt, however, says she can't presume that an FBI investigation is a thorough one. She recalls the 1997 shooting of Frederick Gray by an Albemarle County police officer at the Squire Hill Apartments on Rio Road. Although invited to investigate, the FBI, says Wyatt, didn't interview any eyewitnesses. Nearly 10 years after the shooting, an Albemarle jury awarded Gray's family, represented by Wyatt, $4.5 million in a wrongful death suit.

Doubts about the FBI's investigation aside, Wyatt says she finds it hard to understand why Porterfield, if she filed a false report, would avoid getting charged with a crime– and that, she says, is reason for the FBI to open its file to scrutiny.

"If it's a closed case, and public resources have been used, doesn't the citizen have an interest in knowing on what basis they closed it?" asks Wyatt.

In the weeks following the incident, Porterfield, allegedly then living on Buck Island Road in southeastern Albemarle, declined to speak to a reporter; but her husband, Bradley Porterfield, reached via Facebook, defended his wife while criticizing investigators and the media for airing doubts.

"There is still an assailant at large," he wrote in one of two messages sent August 1 and 2 as he fumed about the park ranger's statement questioning the veracity of his wife's claims.

"Mr Stinnett's comments to the Watauga Democrat came just hours after my wife had been found!" Mr. Porterfield wrote. "No evidence had even been processed at that time! So, ask yourself, how could he make a dumb statement like that before he had any facts?"

He described the hardship his wife had faced.

"She was victimized by the assailant, victimized by having to pay $500 to get her van back, victimized by local law enforcement, she has to pay all the emergency room expenses, psychiatry bills, and is being victimized by the press and all the comments posted on your stories!" he wrote. "When will it end?"

The day of the alleged abduction, Kelly Porterfield's place of employment, Charlottesville Health and Rehabilitation Center on Rio Road, was undergoing a state recertification survey. Mr. Porterfield referred to it in the first of his messages.

"I reported to law enforcement that my wife was missing and it was very, very unusual for her to not show up for work during a state survey!" he wrote. In a second message, he promised that once the FBI investigation was complete he and his wife would give a reporter a full account of the incident.

However, further messages sent through Facebook have not been returned, and Kelly Porterfield– reached at the Center, where she remains employed– declines comment.

"Why do you want to drag this up again?" she asked, citing the trauma of the event and the aftermath.

According to Rybiski, while the case is closed, it doesn't have to stay that way.

"If any pertinent information is reported thereafter that would warrant the case being reopened," she says, "that, too, would be thoroughly investigated."


this is why i remain a loyal hook reader. i was wondering about this "story" not long ago, and i guarantee this will be the only local report we will see on the "incident". thanks courteney, et al!

Stinnett refused to elaborate on his earlier comment? I guess somebody with a higher IQ than his cautioned him he was treading on thin ice by accusing a victim of lying unless he could prove it. Sounds like he might even do better in some type of new career.

Sounds like that guy Stinnett might want to consider peddling memorial stones if he's looking for a change of career.

Any case around here that has involved the FBI, remains unsolved, I am sure the Hook can pull one after another. (First case in mind to me is Alicia Showalter Reynolds.) Perhaps south of DC we get the dregs of the organization? (I've known of a few here in the area and I would testify to that!)


The victim wasn't a young blue eyed blond women from UVA. Thats why they stopped looking. She must have been white though because it was reported in the paper.

@Hook Reader - you need to READ the articles more fully - Parkway Chief Ranger Steve Stinnett is the one that made this statement - how in the he-- was he trained in this - he is a "Park Ranger" not FBI. The FBI around here are notorious for their ineptitude!

I find it very intesting that all the crimes against women around here (probably elsewhere too) for the most part go unsolved on unresolved - Morgan, Alicia and I know many others. And this dates back decades. Paula Jean Chandler '82 (had a suspect but botched investigation and further speculation on their suspects).

b17, I'm not sure Stinnett could make it in the memorial stone business. He would probably be asking his customers if they are sure their loved one really died or not.

C-ville - I am laughing. A park ranger may or may not have law enforcement. A park superintendant generally does not. My take on this - if they have dismissed this case then they did it at the request of the woman. Let it be.

seriously?? no way did this happen the way she said it did. she's lucky not to face charges, and probably relieved to see the lack of media coverage.

Someone wrote that maybe she just wanted not to be pursue it. Doesn't work that way.

In a criminal case, the alleged victim doesn't get to decide not to have it pursued. If there is a horrible, dangerous kidnapper out there, it is in the interest of the public to have him hunted down and prosecuted, whether the "victim" wants it pursued or not.

Probably because it never happened. And the police know it never happened. And like "local" said, she's lucky not to face charges for it.

that's a pretty hefty "IF"

lets just say it did happen - what would the circumstances be that it is not covered by the media?

No way she was abducted.

Local, yeah, big "IF", but just saying. In other words, case didn't get closed because she wanted it closed -- so why, and if FBI concluded didn't happen, why isn't she charged? At least she didn't go along long enough to pick out some poor slob from a photo, but still.

Mr/Mrs/Miss just wondering, a victim does indirectly have a choice in a criminal case going forwards. If the case proceeds against the victim's wishes, all the victim has to say in court every time they are asked a question is, "I do not recall!"

This is even taught in the local police academy as a matter of fact. Cops are taught to answer with "I don't recall" every time they are asked a question that might be detrimental to the commonwealth's case. It's called a white lie, and it is being taught as perfectly acceptable in court under oath.

Go sit in court one day and listen to how many time cops answer with, "I don't recall!"

Politicians use the famous "I don't recall" also. Not quite plausible deniability but it works in the court room.

Bill Clinton should have used the "I do not recall" when asked about Monica. But the "I do not recall was just getting started back then.

Gasbag -- sure, the prosecutor and police can be concerned and take victim wishes into account in urging plea bargaining, etc, but I disagree that the FBI would close up for that reason and that the prosecution would, for that reason, wholly decline to charge something as serious as an abduction. The Commonwealth Attorney's client is the Commonwealth, not the "victim."

Gas Bag--and one more point. It's not a white lie to say "I don't recall" when one does recall. It's perjury.

@just wondering - prove that someone doesn't honestly "not recall". Not everyone has perfect memories and it all depends upon what they are to recall.

The FBI didn't conclude "it didn't happen" - to quote from the article: "Dee Rybiski in an email. "Unfortunately, the investigation and information provided failed to develop any viable leads or identify any potential suspects."

They closed the case. They have done this for countless other cases around here that involve women victims.

and they pursue reported crimes with NO evidence that involve men? the only thing unusual here is that she went uncharged.

Cville Native--"prove that someone doesn't honestly 'not recall.'?

Well, that's the whole premise the police work on, now, isn't it, according to GasBag. That it's hard. Are you doubting that police use that falsely (in perjury) or only that one could ever know? (We're not taking about the occasional "can't recall" something from bad memory or not recalling the precise time etc but the kind of thing GasBag referenced.)

And I don't think the quote from the article in any way rules out that the FBI concluded it didn't happen.

And if they didn't conclude that it didn't happen, as you suggest, then why aren't they putting out info on what the suspect looked like, what kind of car he drove, etc.?

my guess, and i wholly admit that's all it is, is that there is no information released to the public because this story was fabricated. mrs porterfield had reasons (something to hide from state survey or husband....) to disappear that day, and needed an explanation that would absolve her of responsibility for those actions. the only mysteries to me are why she wasn't charged with false reporting and why her husband doesn't understand that if HE reported her missing, he created the pressure situation that caused her to create the fictional explanation.

If Porterfield promised an interview after the case was closed then WHY hasn't she given one. My take is that she make the whole thing up. Why wouldnt she want to get the public involved to catch this person. Her husband for some reason is blind to the truth. I think of all the tax dollars that was wasted on this investigation and it makes me sick. All the time and money could have been spent on actual crimes. Shame on her employer for not making her take more responsibility for bailing out on them on a day the state was there to investigate their building. Was there something she was afraid they would find? Would they perhaps look to see her record of narcotics she was supposed to be "destroying". Just curious. I hope that when all is said and done the truth comes out. It is not fair to her family,co-workers or the public.

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