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DL cops bust man accused in kidnapping

Detroit Lakes police officers put an end to a very dramatic story recently -- one that had the potential to be a tragedy.

"We got a call from the Duluth Police Department Thursday morning saying they were looking for this guy and he could be in the Detroit Lakes area," explained Detroit Lakes Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten.

That guy was 26-year-old Nathaniel Michael Jaffe-Norris, who was suspected of arranging to have his wife and three children kidnapped from a Duluth shelter, where they had gone to escape his alleged abuse.

According to police, Jaffe-Norris had been stalking his wife and children through four states as they stayed with various friends, hotels and shelters, catching up with them several times and assaulting his wife in front of the children, choking her and threatening to kill her.

The woman told police that she and Jaffe-Norris were married in February of last year. She is from Bountiful, Utah. They have one child in common, and the woman has two other children. The children range in age from 2 to 6.

She said she had left the family's Utah residence in March because she "could not take the drugs and abuse anymore." She traveled to Williston, N.D., to stay with a friend. Jaffe-Norris tracked her down there. He slapped her and told her that she and the children would be returning with him to Utah, the woman said.

The next morning, she sent her husband out to buy diapers, and while he was gone, she packed up the children and fled to Bismarck, N.D., to stay with another acquaintance.

The woman told police that her husband apparently was tracking her bank cards and banking activity and was able to locate her in Bismarck. Jaffe-Norris then drove the family to Fargo.

While in a park there, the woman received a phone call which made the defendant angry. He took the phone away and repeatedly slapped her in the face, the complaint alleges. Police were called by an onlooker, and when they arrived, Jaffe-Norris fled.

The woman then took her children to a women's shelter in Billings, Mont. The defendant returned to Bountiful, where he reportedly brutally assaulted the woman's brother in an attempt to find out where his wife was. He knocked out some of the brother's teeth.

Jaffe-Norris traveled to Billings and found his wife and children at a Pizza Hut restaurant. He placed her and the children in the car. A woman from the shelter attempted to stop him and he assaulted her, according to the complaint.

The defendant drove the family back to Bismarck. On March 22, he is accused of assaulting his wife in front of the three children at a Motel 6 in Bismarck. The woman said he choked her, threatened to kill her, and she believed she was going to die. He was charged and convicted, but spent only four days in jail. The woman and her children traveled to Fergus Falls by bus before he was released.

The complaint alleges that when he got out of jail, Jaffe-Norris told personnel at the bus station that his wife had kidnapped their children, and they provided him information about the bus route.

When the woman and her children arrived at the Fergus Falls bus station, the defendant was there waiting for them. He forced them into his car and drove to Detroit Lakes. While her husband was in a McDonald's there, the woman contacted a friend to pick her up. She took her children back to Fargo.

On April 2, Jaffe-Norris found his wife at a Motel 6 in Fargo. He kicked in the door and attempted to grab her, but she was able to dial the motel operator. She said her husband fled. He has pending charges in Fargo related to the incident.

The shelter in Fargo then put the woman in touch with Safe Haven Shelter in Duluth.

According to the criminal complaint:

On Wednesday, the woman left the Safe Haven Shelter in Duluth and went to a church. She said that while outside with the children, a man she knew only by the name of "Kevin'' approached her. She said he was an acquaintance of her husband's. The man grabbed her 4-year-old son's hand and walked him toward a car. She asked him what he was doing. He said that he was taking the boy and she needed to make two phone calls -- one to her husband to tell him that she and the children were going to go with Kevin, and the other phone call to the shelter to tell them she was OK.

The woman tried to reason with the man, but ultimately complied with the demands out of concern for her own and her children's safety.

She said they rode with the abductor, and she was ordered to telephone her husband every hour while she was on the road. Her husband told her that Kevin was taking her to Detroit Lakes, where she needed to check into a hotel and "stay in the room, holding still'' until he arrived. That hotel was Budget Host Inn, which is at 895 Highway 10 east in Detroit Lakes.

Jaffe-Norris arrived and told his wife that a friend was coming to rent a car for them and they were leaving the state. He had not driven his own car to the hotel because he said she had called the cops on him and they knew what vehicle he drives.

Eggebraaten says while they weren't able to track him down through his vehicle, he says one of the officers recalls seeing a suspicious man outside of the Budget Hotel the night before "giving him a weird look."

"So when we got the information from the Duluth police, one of our investigators went to the hotel and found out there was a woman who had checked in with the same first name as the victim," said Eggebraaten, "so we began setting up surveillance there."

Nine officers, including three from the Becker County Sheriff's Department, were on hand to begin dealing with a potentially dangerous situation.

"We didn't know whether he had weapons or not -- we had heard he might," said Eggebraaten, who added that it wasn't long before the man matching Jaffe-Norris's description walked outside of the hotel to have a cigarette.

That's when Eggebraaten called the Red River Valley SWAT Team.

"Our first concern was for the safety of the wife and kids, as well as the hotel staff," said Eggebraaten. "People were seeing us walking around with guns, and we did not want to have a standoff."

Police set up a perimeter, but before the SWAT team arrived, the suspect came out for another cigarette.

"We were content to just sit and do it the proper way with the SWAT team, but when he came out the second time, we just decided to go and take him down," said Eggebraaten, who added that Jaffe-Norris did not put up a fight and did not have weapons on him.

"We interviewed the wife and then involved Human Services and Child Family Protection and Lakes Crisis Center and made sure they were OK from there," said Eggebraaten, who noted that Jaffe-Norris was taken to the Becker County Jail.

The suspect was later transported back to Duluth, where his bail was set at $450,000.

Jaffe-Norris was arraigned in State District Court in Duluth on Monday, on charges of kidnapping, pattern of stalking and four counts of aiding and abetting a kidnapping. He has prior convictions for terrorizing, being a felon in possession of a firearm and battery.

"It's ended up as good as it could have," said Eggebraaten of the arrest. "It's nice to have the option of being able to call the SWAT teams, especially for an agency of this size, but we're lucky we didn't need them."

Mark Stodghill writes for the Duluth News Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.