Fugitive accused of abducting Nebraska girl surrenders in Montana

Thursday, April 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(ROLLINS, Mont.) - A man accused of abducting a teen-age girl from a mall parking lot in Nebraska nearly a week ago surrendered early Thursday to police who cornered him in a remote cabin. The girl was safe.

Anne Sluti, 17, of Kearney, Neb., had a black eye but appeared to be otherwise unharmed, Lake County Sheriff Bill Barron said. She was to be examined at a hospital, he said.

Anthony Zappa had been holed up with the girl in the cabin in this resort community on the west shore of Flathead Lake. Authorities were notified by a landlord who watches the summer homes and said a car had been spotted in the area when the cabin was supposed to be empty.

Police surrounded the cabin Wednesday afternoon. The standoff ended about 10 hours later with Zappa's surrender.

``He was very cooperative. He did exactly what we told him,'' Barron said.

Sluti, who authorities credited with helping negotiate the surrender, ran out of the cabin shortly afterward.

``We have a miracle that happened,'' Sluti's father, Don, told The Associated Press by telephone from Kearney. ``A miracle and good police work. ... Praise to police and praise to our friends and praise to the prayers that they prayed.''

Zappa, 29, also known as Anthony Steven Wright, was wanted on assault, theft and illegal gun possession charges in Nebraska and on similar counts in Louisiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.

He had eluded authorities since November after failing to appear in a Minnesota court on a burglary charge. At one point last month, the manhunt prompted police to close the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., to search the building after he was spotted there.

Police believe he abducted Sluti last Friday from a shopping mall parking lot in Kearney. He was linked to the crime by a stolen 1987 Chevy Suburban used in the kidnapping and found abandoned in Belgrade, Mont. Police believe Zappa stole the Suburban in Louisiana last week.

During the standoff at the cabin, Sluti acted as a negotiator, Lake County Undersheriff Mike Sargent said.

``From our very first conversation, she expressed that Tony wanted to end this, and when it did end, he wanted it peacefully. And I assured her that was our goal,'' Sargent said. ``He had concerns that we might shoot him.''

Shortly after 3 a.m. Thursday, Zappa came out through the garage with his arms up, Sargent said. Sluti followed.

``She came running out and was very glad that this ordeal was over and that we were there,'' Sargent said. ``She appeared and well and very happy to be free.''

Sluti is an honor student at Kearney High School, where she is a pole vaulter on the school's track team. Arrangements were being made for her return home.

Zappa was being held in the Lake County Jail.