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Kidnapped teen girl is rescued using SafeUT app

The SafeUT app is a crisis chat and tip line that provides real-time crisis assistance for students, parents, and educators. A 14-year-old girl who police say was abducted by a stranger was rescued after using the SafeUT app.

The SafeUT app is a crisis chat and tip line that provides real-time crisis assistance for students, parents, and educators. A 14-year-old girl who police say was abducted by a stranger was rescued after using the SafeUT app. (SafeUT)


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SALT LAKE CITY — A 14-year-old girl who police say was kidnapped while walking home and couldn't reach any of her friends, downloaded the SafeUT app and was rescued a short time later by Salt Lake police.

On Saturday, a 14-year-old girl told police she was walking home when Jonathan David-Epp Simonji, 26, pulled in front of her in his Camaro and asked her to get in, according to a police booking affidavit. Simonji offers the girl beer and food, but she refused and told him her age.

"Simonji continued to follow (her). (The girl) tried to run away and evade Simonji, but Simonji eventually found her. Simonji got out of his vehicle and grabbed (her) by the wrists," the affidavit states.

He then told the girl that "he may have something on him," which the girl interpreted as meaning he had a weapon, according to the affidavit. At that point, police say she got in the car with Simonji who took her to an Airbnb rental in Salt Lake City.

The girl told police that her phone battery was dead at this point. She charged her phone once she got to the Airbnb and attempted to contact her friends for help, but no one answered, the affidavit states. She also told investigators that Simonji attempted to take her phone away from her two times but was unsuccessful.

When Simonji took off most of his clothes and began touching the girl, she downloaded the SafeUT app "and notified them that she was with a man who picked her up and she did not feel safe," according to the affidavit.

The SafeUT app is monitored 24 hours a day and is designed to help young people experiencing a crisis by putting them in touch with a counselor. It also is a way for students to submit anonymous tips about potential acts of violence.

Salt Lake police were contacted just after 3 a.m. and immediately responded to the home, near 300 West and 700 North. They found Simonji in a bed with the girl, the affidavit states. When police pulled the girl aside to talk to her, Simonji locked the door to the Airbnb and refused to exit the house or talk to officers, the affidavit states.

After negotiating with Simonji for about two hours, he agreed to unlock the door and go outside to further talk to police. He claimed the girl was on her phone the entire time and that police arrived after he ordered food, according to the affidavit.

Simonji was arrested for investigation of kidnapping. Police have requested that he be held in the Salt Lake County Jail without bail pending the filing of formal charges, noting that he was scheduled to fly to Hawaii the day after his arrest.

Salt Lake police say the incident is a good reminder of why it is important for teens to always tell someone when they are going somewhere and when they'll be back and to walk with a friend whenever possible.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.

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