DALLAS – A couple savagely beat and kidnapped a 42-year-old Dallas woman Wednesday in the parking lot of NorthPark Center, driving her van to Nacogdoches –– with her inside.
A Dallas Police Department incident report says Minh Nguyen was attacked as she sat in her 2009 Toyota Sienna in the parking lot of the mall shortly after 8 p.m. She was there to see a movie with a friend, but they split up, leaving Nguyen alone in the van with the keys.
The report says a woman walked up to the van and began chatting with Nguyen. Then a man, later identified as Tommy Simmons, punched her in the face and forced her in the back of the Sienna. Quoting from the report, Simmons told her to "do as she was told or he would kill her."
"He wanted his own transportation," said Dallas Police Department Deputy Chief Sherryl Scott.
Scott said Nguyen passed out briefly after she was punched. Scott was not sure of the severity of her injuries.
Simmons drove for nearly six hours. At some point, he tossed his victim's phone out of the window.
At 2 a.m., the Nacogdoches Police Department got a 911 call from Nguyen, Dallas police say. She told dispatchers she escaped the couple at a Shell gas station inside the city and described the vehicle. The suspects were found inside the van a short time later.
"We don't know how serious her injuries are at this point, but anyone who can escape and get away from their captors certainly is very lucky," Scott said during a news conference.
Simmons, 29, has been charged with first degree aggravated kidnapping, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, burglary of a vehicle and theft. The woman who police say served as a diversion so Simmons could catch an unsuspecting Nguyen with a punch, Michelle Jenene Tortora, 18, also faces charges of aggravated kidnapping.
Simmons was released from prison the day before after serving a three-year sentence for robbery and credit card abuse in Nacogdoches, state records show. Nacogdoches police Lt. Tim Goerner said he was taken by bus to the downtown Dallas Greyhound Station at 205 S. Lamar after being released.
Goerner said he met Tortoro at Reunion Station and spent the day together. That was the first time they met, he said. They traveled to NorthPark Center that evening, spotting the Toyota Sienna in the parking lot. The lieutenant said they waited for Nguyen's friend to walk into Macy's and then stole her van.
They first headed south to Houston. Goerner said at one point they pulled off on a side road and ordered Nguyen to exit the van. Fearing for her life, she refused to get out. The two then got back in the van and drove to Nacogdoches, Goerner said.
She escaped her captors and a customer helped her call 911.
Simmons and Tortoro are both jailed on $282,000 bond. They are being held in the Nacogdoches County Jail, according to its website. Nguyen is back in Dallas, Scott said.
NorthPark issued the statement below at about 5 p.m. Thursday:
NorthPark Center is aware of an incident that allegedly occurred in a Dallas parking facility that resulted in two suspects being taken into custody in Nacogdoches. NorthPark Center is cooperating with authorities in their investigation. As always, the safety of our shoppers, merchants, and employees continues to be our number one priority.