Jonathan David-Epp Simonji, 26, is facing a second-degree felony charge of kidnapping as a result of the incident.
Shortly after 3 a.m. on Jan. 21, police received a call from a person working with the SafeUT app regarding a 14-year-old girl “being picked up by an adult who refused to let her leave a home,” a press release states.
Officers responded to the home near 300 West 700 North and reportedly saw the teen and Simonji inside. A probable cause affidavit states that Simonji was in bed with the girl.
Police say they were able to get the girl safely out of the home, though when officers pulled her aside, Simonji reportedly closed and locked the door of the home, refusing to exit the house or speak with officers.
Officers believe Simonji, while in a car near 700 South 300 East, pulled up next to the girl as she was walking home and attempted to lure her inside of his car with alcohol and food. After the girl refused and tried running away, Simonji reportedly found her, got out of his car, grabbed her and told her that he “may have something on him,” the affidavit states.
Police say Simonji forced the teen girl into his car and drove her to a nearby Airbnb where he continued to offer her alcohol and refused to let her leave.
The girl later told officers she downloaded the SafeUT app and communicated with a staff member after not being able to get a hold of friends or family members. After being alerted by SafeUT, officers responded and came to her aid.
After what police say was around two hours of talking, officers convinced Simonji to come out of the house and safely took him into custody. Simonji and the victim are reportedly not previously known to each other, and this is believed to be a stranger-related incident.
Simonji told police he had “gone out” and “returned with a girl who was on her phone the whole time,” the affidavit states. He reportedly said he ordered food and then the police arrived.
The affidavit states that Simonji expressed “feeling scared” because of the police presence, before stating he wanted to speak with his attorney.
Simonji was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on the charges previously stated.
The SLCPD reminds community members to always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. If you can, make sure you walk with someone you know and trust. Although SLCPD says that safety apps and text to 9-1-1 are becoming increasingly popular, they say the fastest way to reach help in an emergency is by calling 9-1-1.
Additionally, the SafeUT app provides a way to connect to licensed counselors who are ready to listen to any crisis or concern. Support is reportedly immediate and confidential, and “as easy as reaching for your phone and sending that first message,” the release states. For more information, please visit their website here.
No further information is available at this time.