“Yeah, it was one of them days, I guess,” Mark Knappenberger, of Wheelersburg, said nonchalantly.
According to the Oregon State Police, Benjamin Franklin Reed, 31, of Portland, Ore., forced his live-in girlfriend to get into the car with her 23-month old daughter Dec. 31 and drive east on I-84. Reed reportedly forced her to pull into a rest area, where he allegedly sexually assaulted the woman. Afterward, they drove seven miles further east until the woman seized an opportunity to park and run from her Jeep.
Knappenberger is a truck driver, and he was on his way home after making a delivery from Cincinnati to Portland when he saw the woman walking barefoot along the center of the highway about 4:30 a.m.
“I seen a car parked on the shoulder of the road, so I got over to the left lane to go around them. Then she came running at me trying to get me to stop. He was behind her. I didn’t know what was going on. He got back in the Jeep and he tried to run her over, and she jumped down over the guardrail,” he said.
The Jeep left the scene, and Knappenberger called 911. The woman climbed into the cab of Knappenberger’s truck and talked to an officer on the phone. He said the barefoot woman was shaken up and had a broken arm from jumping the guard rail.
Meanwhile, her child was still in the Jeep.
“She said she was just trying to find help,” Knappenberger said.
While leaving the scene, police say Reed crashed his Jeep a few miles away and was ejected from the vehicle. The child was secured in a child-seat. A passing FedEx driver saw the wreck and rescued the toddler from the smoking vehicle.
Reed and the child were transported by ambulance to Mid-Columbia Medical Center for treatment.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, I guess. It was a good thing,” Knappenberger said.
After being released from the hospital Jan. 2, Reed was arrested and charged with two counts of rape in the first degree, kidnap in the first degree, kidnap in the second degree, sodomy in the first degree, assault in the second degree, felony assault in the fourth degree with a child present, three counts of recklessly endangering another person, driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving and menacing. He was being held on $1.234 million bond.
Oregon State Police Sgt. Pat Shortt said he was preparing paperwork to nominate Knappenberger for the Goodyear North America Highway Hero Award.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, or rottney@ portsmouth-dailytimes.com.