One man has been arrested and authorities are searching for another in connection with the kidnapping of a woman who was taken Friday morning from Kenner to a Mid-City house where she was bound and gagged.
Mario Perez, 56, a resident of the house, was arrested Saturday morning in Jefferson Parish after what authorities described as a joint investigation involving the New Orleans Police Department, Kenner Police Department, Louisiana State Police, Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Service, Border Patrol and the FBI.
Police said they believe Perez and another unidentified man took the woman, 36, from somewhere in Kenner to the large double-shotgun house in the 100 block of North Lopez Street, just off Canal Street. There she was tied to a chair, gagged and had a bag placed over her head, NOPD spokesman Officer Juan Barnes said.
A neighbor who declined to give her name for fear of retribution said Perez had recently expressed anger about a break-up with a girlfriend who lives in Kenner.
The neighbor said she had grown alarmed a week before the kidnapping when Perez excavated a large amount of dirt from underneath the floor of his apartment in the back of the house.
After the victim was tied to the chair Friday morning, police said, the men left the house and she managed to escape about 11 a.m. and run toward the corner of Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway.
An unidentified man then tried to force the woman into the back of a black SUV in a bank parking lot, police said.
Witness Gary Messina said he and other bystanders watched in alarm as a man ran up behind the woman and placed her in a chokehold. Messina and others began to intervene, and the man fled in the SUV at the sound of police sirens.
Through an interpreter, the woman described being kidnapped by two men, Barnes said.
Police have not released the identity of the second suspect in what they described as an ongoing investigation.
Authorities said they intend to book Perez on counts of false imprisonment and attempted simple kidnapping when he is transported to Orleans Parish.
Staff writer Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.