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Police: Student says she was abducted at knifepoint

No suspect seen in area where woman was found

Audrey Seiler

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University of Wisconsin

(CNN) -- A college student who was found alive Wednesday in Madison, Wisconsin, four days after she disappeared told police she was abducted at knifepoint, authorities said.

"We have searched the area concerned extensively, and the suspect was not found," Shannon Blackamore, a spokesman for the Madison Police Department, said late Wednesday.

Asked if authorities were still searching for a possible abductor, Blackamore would only say, "We are actively investigating this case."

Audrey Seiler, a 20-year-old honor student at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, disappeared early Saturday.

She was found Wednesday about two miles from campus in a marshy area of Madison shortly after someone spotted her and called police, authorities said. Seiler was treated at a hospital and released about five hours later.

Blackamore said Seiler told police she was taken at knifepoint and held in captivity, but not harmed. She said she did not know the man.

"Preliminary information indicates that a gun was implied but not seen," Blackamore told reporters. "Audrey reports that she was not free to leave and was not injured."

Seiler described the suspect as a white male in his late 20s or early 30s and about 6 feet tall, police said. He was last seen wearing a black sweatshirt, black hat and jeans, police said.

Seiler's parents expressed relief that the ordeal was over.

"Audrey was overjoyed to return back to us, just relieved, glad to be warm, to see her friends and family [and] a bit surprised at the big hullabaloo," Keith Seiler told reporters after being reunited with his daughter. "Other than that, she's just content right now."

"Right now we're just focusing on being together and holding each other," said her mother, Stephanie Seiler.

Dr. Philip Shultz, who treated Seiler at St. Mary's Hospital, said the young woman was "remarkably well," considering everything.

"She's really gotten through her ordeal remarkably well, physically," Shultz said. "She has lots of muscle aches from being confined during this period of time and she's relatively dehydrated."

Madison police spokesman Pat Malloy said authorities received a call from a citizen who "spotted her in a marsh area and thought it was unusual or suspicious and called the police."

Police quickly sealed off the area two miles east of the university and began combing streets, parking lots and nearby woods with their guns drawn.

Police in a helicopter used a thermal imaging device to try to spot the man, and at least one canine team tried to find a trail on the ground. SWAT team members employed an armored vehicle.

"We needed to stay strong for Audrey and Audrey needed to stay strong for us," said Stephanie Seiler and her husband, Keith.

"The area is currently being secured until crime scene processing can occur," Blackamore said.

Seiler was last seen Saturday on a surveillance camera leaving her apartment without a purse or coat.

Her disappearance puzzled investigators because there was no sign of foul play.

Hundreds of volunteers, including many from Seiler's hometown of Rockford, Minnesota, took part in searches earlier in the week.

Seiler told police last month she was attacked from behind and knocked unconscious while walking outside after midnight.

She said she woke up behind a nearby building but was not robbed or otherwise hurt, police said. No one was arrested in the incident.

The university provost said the apparent kidnapping was unusual for Madison, a quiet college town that had its lowest crime rate in 30 years last year.

"This is quite unique for us," Spear said. "In fact, our crime rate here is well below average for universities of our size."

Last November, University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin, 22, disappeared after leaving her job at a Grand Forks shopping mall. She is believed to be dead, although no remains have been found.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., 50, who was released from prison six months earlier after serving 23 years for the rapes of two women and attempted rape of another woman, was charged with her kidnapping.

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