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Man charged in kidnapping
Union Leader Correspondent

ALSTEAD — A Keene man faces kidnapping and other charges after police said he took a woman hostage in Keene and fled to the woods of Alstead in an attempt to escape.

Stephen C. Baptiste, 27, surrendered without incident about 2:30 p.m. after police negotiated with him through his cell phone. Other than some cuts and bruises, he was unhurt, police said.

"We focused on his well-being," said Vermont State Police Lt. Jocelyn Stohl. "He admitted that he really was lost and he was getting cold. We set up a strategy, using a siren and helicopter to lead him out."

The case began at 9 a.m. with a 911 hang-up call in Keene, according to New Hampshire State Police Capt. Allen Welch.

"There was the possibility of rape," Welch said. "Two men came to the aid of the female victim, and they were threatened with what they believed to be a firearm. It turned out to be a pellet gun, but we treated him as armed and dangerous just the same. Just because he didn't have the pellet gun didn't mean he wasn't armed."

According to Keene police, the call came from an 18-year-old woman who claimed that Baptiste had sexually assaulted her.

As officers responded, police said Baptiste took a green Toyota Land Cruiser with Pennsylvania plates and headed north. Walpole Police Sgt. Michael Paquette spotted the vehicle on Route 12 near a bridge connecting Walpole to Vermont. A cat-and-mouse chase ensued. Several times, Baptiste would pull over only to speed away when approached by Paquette.

Police said Baptiste eventually took an old logging road off Old Drewsville Road as far as he could go, abandoned the car and headed into the woods on foot.

By then, all police who could aid in the search had been summoned: about 35 officers from Alstead, Charlestown, Chesterfield, Keene, Langdon and Walpole; the Cheshire County Sheriff's Department; state police from Vermont and New Hampshire; and police from Bellows Falls, Vt. New Hampshire State Police also sent a helicopter and tracking dogs.

Dispatchers from the Cheshire County Sheriff's Department established the connection with Baptiste's cell phone and kept him on the line until Stohl and Alstead Lt. Bob Bromley could talk with him.

"We established a perimeter," Stohl said. "He was surrounded by a wall of armed officers whose intent was to bring him in. This was not a lost hiker situation. He wanted to find an opening to get away. He asked for the helicopter to touch down — which is, of course, what he would want for an escape — so we didn't do it. But he became uncomfortable and wanted to end it."

Baptiste eventually came back out not far from where he originally had abandoned his car; the formal arrest was made by a Vermont state trooper.

Stohl said she is not often called upon to negotiate with suspects. "We have a hostage negotiation team," she said, "but sometimes you're the only one there."

Bromley said the incident showed the value of the mutual cooperation.

"This is the mutual aid system at its best," he said. "Departments and officers from all jurisdictions got together and acted as though they'd been partners all their lives."

Baptiste was supposed to be in Keene District Court on Tuesday to face simple assault charges when Tuesday's incident began. He is being held without bail.

Keene police said Baptiste will be charged with aggravated felonious sexual assault, attempted aggravated felonious sexual assault and kidnapping, to start with, adding, "numerous other charges will be forthcoming."
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