Sex Offender Arrested for Kidnapping, Rapes Woman in Staples Parking Lot

FORT SMITH, AR (KNWA)- A registered sex offender has been arrested after police say he kidnapped a woman in a parking lot and sexually assaulted before leading police on a high speed chase.

Ardwin Frank Sylvester of Fort Smith faces charges of Kidnapping, Aggravated Robbery, Rape, and Felon in Possession of a Firearm.

On Tuesday, around 2:43 pm, a 911 operator got a call that a woman had run from a parked car at an EZ-Mart in Ashdown, AR, screaming to call 911 and that she had been kidnapped.

The victim, a 54-year-old-woman, reported that at approximately 11:00 am, she was approached by a man at her vehicle in the Staples parking lot on the 5700 block of Rogers Avenue. The man, later identified as Sylvester, used a gun to force her into her car and drove her out of the city limits on Highway 71 South. She said while traveling between Fort Smith and Mena, Sylvester sexually assaulted her. While refueling at an EZ-Mart in Ashdown, Arkansas, the woman ran from the car and began screaming for help.

The Little River Sheriff’s Department said she later told them her kidnapper was armed with a chrome semi-automatic handgun. Ardwin, according to investigators, fled the scene in the victim’s car and was later taken into custody in Sevier County after a pursuit with the Arkansas State Police (ASP). During the chase Ardwin Sylvester threw a semi-automatic handgun from the vehicle, says ASP.

He is being held on a $250,000.00 bond at the Sevier County Detention Center in Dequeen, Arkansas. The victim was taken to a hospital for treatment and observation.

During the investigation, police learned a manager of Staples had called 911 to report it appeared a woman was "unwillingly" getting into a car with a man and the man may have been armed with a gun or a metal pipe. The manager gave vehicle information and direction of travel as the vehicle left the parking lot. Police said a notice was sent out to officers to be on the lookout, but an officer was not sent to the scene.

Police Chief Kevin Lindsey has launched an internal investigation into the events surrounding that initial 911 call.

Ardwin is listed as a level three registered sex offender, convicted of rape, according to the Arkansas Crime Information Center.

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