Skip to main content /US /US

Sheriff: Rescued girls were minutes from death

'He was hunting for a place to kill them and bury them'

Authorities remove the body of Roy Ratliff near Lake Isabella, California, on Thursday.
Authorities remove the body of Roy Ratliff near Lake Isabella, California, on Thursday.  

LANCASTER, California (CNN) -- The man who abducted two teenage girls at gunpoint early Thursday was "hunting for a place to kill them" in a remote desert spot about 100 miles away when two deputies located him and fatally shot him, authorities said.

"He was hunting for a place to kill them and bury them. We probably saved them by 10 minutes," Kern County Sheriff Carl Sparks told CNN. "He was parked. He had found the spot when the deputies rolled up."

Authorities identified the suspect as Roy Ratliff, who was already wanted on rape charges in Kern County, which is northeast of Los Angeles. Ratliff was a resident of Rosamond in the county.

Sparks said Ratliff raped the two girls -- aged 16 and 17 -- and "there wasn't anything left to do" but to kill them in the isolated desert stretch near Lake Isabella, about 100 miles north of where they were abducted.

When the two deputies arrived, Ratliff fired a shot out the back window of the white Ford Bronco he had carjacked hours earlier. The two girls were in the back of the Bronco, their bodies partially taped, Sparks said.

One deputy remained at the back of the vehicle, while the other approached the driver's side.

Two teenage girls kidnapped early Thursday were rescued when police tracked down the suspect's vehicle. CNN's Casey Wian reports (August 1)

Play video
Gallery: Recent missing youngster cases 

"The suspect had showed them a gun and said, 'No way, no way,'" Sparks said. "The deputy in the back shot five times, the deputy on the driver's side shot four times.

"The deputy in the back went in grabbed the girls, he's pulling them out the back. The deputy on the driver's side looked in, the suspect was coming back up with the gun and [the deputy] shot him twice in the head. And shot him until he stopped."

The ordeal ended at 12:51 p.m.

"We don't have to worry about him being rehabilitated," Sparks said of Ratliff. "We don't have to worry about the Supreme Court. He is deceased."

Helicopters flew over area

Sparks said three helicopters had flown over the area after being tipped off by an animal control officer that he had seen the vehicle. He said he was sure Ratliff had seen the helicopters and decided, "I got to get rid of these girls."

The sheriff said the two girls have a long road ahead of them.

"I don't know that they will ever be the same. They were very thankful that they are alive, but they've got a lot of things to work out," Sparks said.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said, "Our hearts are with them. It's an awful thing to go through. Rape survivors often have to live with a lifetime of trauma and trouble, and we hope they will be OK."

Roy Ratliff
Roy Ratliff  

Both girls were taken to Kern Medical Center on Thursday afternoon, where they were evaluated and released several hours later, said Peter Bryan, the hospital's CEO.

"They are both in good medical condition given the ordeal that they went through," Bryan said.

The parents of the teens were relieved and overwhelmed.

"I just want to thank everyone who helped us in finding the girls," said the mother of one of the girls.

The father of the other girl had a big grin when he told reporters, "Thank God the kids are OK and they're coming home."

'He told me he was going to kill me'

The girls had been in separate vehicles with male friends at a popular "lovers' lane" in Los Angeles County when they were kidnapped at gunpoint shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday, police said.

Authorities said the Bronco was the only vehicle in the parking lot when the suspect arrived in a stolen Saturn at the Quartz Hill water tower -- popular with teens because of its seclusion and sweeping views of the valley.

The Bronco belonged to Joshua Brown, a friend of one of the girls, according to Los Angeles Sheriff's Deputy Brian Lendman. The Saturn was reported stolen in a carjacking in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Brown, who said he turned 18 Thursday, said that moments after he heard a car pull into the parking lot, the suspect was at his window with a semiautomatic handgun.

"He told me to give him all my money," he said. "I thought he was going to kill us."

The suspect left the girl in the truck, he said, warning her to keep her head down, tied Brown to a pole and blindfolded him. The man pointed a gun to the back of Brown's head, the young man told investigators.

"He told me he was going to kill me, but he didn't want to," he said. "He actually just wanted to tie me up. He wanted the truck. ... It sounded like he was trying to decide if he was going to kill me or not."

As the suspect was preparing to leave, Brown said, he heard another car pull into the parking lot, apparently the second girl and her companion.

The companion, who identified himself as Frank, said the suspect first tried to tape the two teenagers together in the car.

But when that didn't work, he taped Frank to his car seat and steering wheel and left with both girls in the Bronco.

One of the young men worked himself free and ran down the hill to a pay phone, said Capt. Tom Pigott of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Pigott said the suspect doused the Saturn in gasoline or some other flammable liquid, apparently intending to set fire to it, "but for some reason elected not to do that."




Back to the top