Parents of kidnapped daughter plead for her release

Tuesday, April 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KEARNEY, Neb. (AP) _ A couple pleaded for the release of their teen-age daughter, an honor student who was kidnapped from a mall parking lot.

Anne Sluti was kidnapped Friday evening. Her purse and other belongings were found lying in the parking lot of the Hilltop Shopping Center, where her locked car was found.

On Monday, her parents spoke with reporters for the first time and pleaded with the kidnapper to release their daughter.

``Please let Anne go,'' her mother, Elaine, said while standing with her husband, Don, and their son, Tom, in front of St. James Catholic Church in Kearney.

``We will do anything to have Anne home again,'' she said while holding a stuffed toy dog that belongs to her daughter.

Sulti remained missing Tuesday. Police have given no motive for the kidnapping.

Police believe the 17-year-old girl was taken by a fugitive wanted in several states on assault, car theft and gun possession charges.

The suspect, Anthony Zappa, also known as Anthony Steven Wright, was linked to the crime by a stolen 1987 Chevy Suburban used in the kidnapping and found abandoned in Belgrade, Mont.

``It's not concrete, but he's the only person we can link to this at this time,'' Kearney Police Chief Dan Lynch said Monday night. ``We want people to be on the lookout for him and Anne. I want that little girl back home.''

The Suburban was found about 30 miles from a cabin in Livingston, Mont., where Sluti made a 911 call Sunday, police said. The call was immediately traced, but no one was in the cabin when authorities arrived.

Zappa, 29, was last seen Sunday outside of Livingston near Yellowstone National Park. Police said a blue Toyota Tercel was stolen from the area. Livingston is more than more than 650 miles from Kearney.

Police believe Zappa stole the Suburban in Louisiana last week. He has eluded authorities since November for failing to appear in a Minnesota court on a burglary charge.

``The vehicles have been the trail that we have been using to follow him. That is why he is suspected in the kidnapping,'' said Kathy Cable, spokeswoman for the Lakewood, Colo., police department, where Zappa is wanted for car theft.

Besides Sluti's call from the Montana cabin, she managed to call her family and a friend on Saturday, but those calls were cut off, Lynch said.

A special agent with the FBI in Salt Lake City says it appeared Sluti suffered some physical abuse, but police believed she was alive. Witnesses say they saw a white man between 30 and 40 years old hit Sluti over the head and drag her into the Suburban.

Sluti is an honor student at Kearney High School, where she is a pole vaulter on the school's track team.

At one point last month, the manhunt for Zappa, who is described as armed and dangerous, prompted police to close the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., to search the building after he was spotted there.

In addition to Colorado and Minnesota, Zappa is wanted in Louisiana, Iowa and Wisconsin.