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N.D. woman says she was held hostage, assaulted by St Paul man she met on Facebook

ST. PAUL -- A 29-year-old woman took a bus from North Dakota to meet a man in St. Paul she'd met online.

But the would-be relationship turned into a hostage situation during which she was repeatedly assaulted, according to charges filed this week in Ramsey County District Court.

The woman reportedly escaped by sending a Facebook message to a friend asking him to rescue her.

Ryan Marcelle Abernatha (also known as Ryan Williams), 40, is charged with terroristic threats and domestic assault by strangulation.

According to the criminal complaint:

Abernatha and a woman identified as A.M.O. began talking on Facebook arranged for her to travel to St. Paul to meet him. She arrived around Oct. 15.

On Sunday -- 10 days later -- a man called 911 to report that A.M.O. had sent him a message asking him to pick her up right away because "a male had assaulted her and she had tried to run away, but the male chased her and forced her to return to his address," the complaint said.

When police went to Abernatha's Sims Avenue apartment to check on the woman, Abernatha told them no one else was there and wouldn't let officers in. Eventually, A.M.O. got out and spoke with officers, who reported she was shaking and crying as she explained how Abernatha wouldn't let her leave.

Officers forced the door open and arrested Abernatha, who had to be carried to the squad car because he wouldn't walk.

The woman said Abernatha had assaulted and strangled her, blockaded the door so she couldn't get out and had tried to prostitute her, the complaint said. She said he did not sexually assault her.

During a police interview, Abernatha said he communicated with the woman via Facebook for about six months and first met her when he picked her up at the bus station. He denied he'd hurt her or held her against her will, and said she'd been at his apartment only about three days, the complaint said.