Whittier man charged with attempted kidnapping
A Whittier man could spend the rest of his life in prison after he allegedly threatened a woman at gunpoint in an attempted kidnapping at the Waterrock Knob Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, where he had tracked her using social media.
According to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, Oct. 10, Evan William Blankenship, 22, “sped into” the overlook parking lot at 3:15 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, driving a white Chevrolet Camaro. The only other car there at the time was the vehicle where the woman, referred to in the complaint as L.P., sat with a man referred to as L.M.
Blankenship allegedly got out of his car, opened the passenger door of L.M.’s vehicle where L.P. sat, and pointed a semi-automatic pistol at the couple. He then allegedly tried to pull L.P. out of the car by her hair and right arm, telling her to get into his car and nodding his head “yes” when she asked if he was taking her so he could rape her. During the encounter, Blankenship allegedly hit L.P. in the face so hard that she sustained temporary hearing loss in her left ear and bruising on her face, firing the gun into the air before pointing it back toward the couple.
“The duration of the incident varied between L.P. and L.M.’s recollection, but they both indicated that L.M. was eventually able to convince Blankenship to let them go after repeatedly promising not to report the incident to the police,” the complaint says.
L.M. then drove down the mountain, Blankenship following close behind until reaching U.S. 74, the complaint says. Despite the early hour, the two eventually found law enforcement and reported the alleged crime.
L.P. told investigators that she had met Blankenship in person only once before, “hanging out” as they drove around together for a few hours, the complaint states. Blankenship had added L.P. on Snapchat about a year prior. L.P. believed that Blankenship found her the morning of the incident using Snapchat’s live location-sharing feature, which made her real-time location visible to friends on the app.
Investigators interviewed Blankenship the day following the incident. While he at first said he was at work when it happened, he changed his story to say he was drunk that night and didn’t remember what took place, the complaint says, though based on the amount of gas in his car the next morning he knew he must have gone somewhere. Then, in a final version of events that Blankenship only related after investigators agreed to turn off their recording devices, the complaint says, Blankenship said that he had texted L.P. around 10 p.m. Sept. 27, asking to hang out. But she declined, saying she was tired and wanted to stay home.
“Blankenship claimed he was disappointed and began drinking heavily,” the complaint says. “While drinking, he noticed L.P.’s Snapchat location showed her on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This upset him, so he decided to go ‘scare her.’” Blankenship allegedly told investigators that he got out of the car with his 9mm Glock in hand, grabbed L.P. by the hair and ordered her into his car, slapping her when she reached for her phone. He admitted that he fired one round toward the ground. Though the shell casing failed to extract from the chamber, he continued to point the gun at the couple, eventually letting them leave after L.M. “was able to convince him this was wrong.” After following them down the Parkway, he texted L.P. not to mention the incident to anybody and then deleted their messages on Snapchat.
Blankenship was arrested Wednesday, Oct. 11, and remains in federal custody. He faces multiple charges: kidnapping, two counts of assault with intent to commit a felony, two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to do bodily harm and possession and discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. The kidnapping and firearm charges each carry a maximum penalty of life in prison, with the firearm charge also carrying a minimum sentence of 10 years. Each of the assault charges carry a maximum of 10 years.
An arraignment hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge W. Carleton Metcalf is set for Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the U.S. District Court in Asheville.