An 18-year-old clerk typist for the U.S. Attorney's Office here was abducted at gunpoint near the federal courthouse shortly before noon Monday but escaped unharmed from her captor yesterday after a two-day forced drive to Florida, according to the FBI.
The kidnapping victim was identified as Deborah Jean Cornog of Forestville, Md., who has been working in the civil division of the federal prosecutor's office for about a year.
The FBI said Cornog escaped from her captor while they were stopped at a rest are arlongside a Florida highway. She then drove for about 45 minutes in panic before stopping to call her parents from a telephone booth in a Vero Beach, Fla., shopping center to tell them she was all right, the FBI said.
Cornog described her kidnaper to the FBI as a 25-year-old male with shoulder-length blond hair, and said he forced his way into her car near a bank at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW with the words, "Drive me to Florida."
Cornog had left her office in the courthouse at 3d Street and Constitution Avenue NW at about 11:30 a.m. Monday, telling a coworker she would be back in time for lunch after transferring her bank account from a Maryland bank to a downtown bank.
When she did not return, her co-worker waited several hours before reporting Cornog's absence to her superiors, reportedly believing that she may have gone shopping and had forgotten about the lunch appointment.
Although the police were originally skeptical about the young woman's disappearance, they said their skepticism faded after hearing several of Cornog's coworkers describe her as a religious person who was happy in her work and in her personal life.
FBI officials said yesterday they also have definite additional reasons since Cornog's call to her home for believing her abduction story. They refused to provide details.
Cornog's parents, her boyfriend, and a sister learned of her ordeal while they were being interviewed by a WMAL television news reporter who was checking into her disappearance. Cornog called the family before calling the police, and WMAL reporter Greg Risch said station employees used their mobile radio equipment to notify the police that Cornog had been located so the family could keep her on the telephone.
While the Cornog family kept the young woman talking for several minutes, the Vero Beach police were notified and picked her up at the telephone booth, Risch said. He said the family - which left for Florida yesterday afternoon - reacted with "jubilation, hugging and kissing. Her father said 'God must have been watching over Deborah'" Risch reported.
Cornog told her family that she was unharmed, although one acquaintance said she understood Cornog told them she was struck by her captor when she noticed a radar speed trap in North Carolina and attempted to speed up to 75 miles per hour in hopes of getting stopped.
An FBI spokesman here said Cornog had been forced by her abductor to drive south on Interstate 95 from Washington, and that the two had stopped at several roadside rest areas on the way to Florida.
Cornog escaped while at a rest area near Cocoa Beach, Fal., although the details of her escape were unclear yesterday.
An FBI spokesman said he understood that Cornog told her captor she wanted to use the rest room and that when she returned to the car he was no longer there. She then sped away and continued driving south for another 45 minutes or so before feeling safe enough to call home, the FBI spokesman said.
Cornog, reportedly told her family, however, that she planned her escape by hiding behind a partition outside the rest room door after both of them left the car, and by running back to the car when she saw her captor enter the rest room.
Cornog is well liked by her colleagues in the U.S. Attorney's Office, where she works for attorneys who represent the federal government in civil lawsuits.
A secretary in the office, Dorothy M. Catapano, said Cornog had worked with her for about a year, and is scheduled to transfer to join Catapano in the fraud division - where presecutors investigate white-collar crimes - in the near future.
Catapano said Cornog came from a religious family, and had been living in a rented room since her family had moved farther out in Maryland. As she and other coworkers were discussing Cornog's disappearance Tuesday afternoon, Catapano said Cornog "is just not the type of person to disappear" without reason.
The FBI last night released a look-out in central Florida for a 25-year-old man with shoulder-length blond hair and blue-green eyes, who was last seen wearing light brown pants, a tan dress shirt and black shoes.