LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A 50-year-old man was captured Monday while staying with his ex-wife in Kentucky and charged with breaking into an Australian family’s home and chaining a fake bomb to a teenage woman’s neck, the FBI said.
Paul “Doug” Peters faces charges in Australia that include kidnapping and breaking and entering, said Luke Moore of the New South Wales Police. An FBI SWAT arrested him at a home in an upper-middle-class Louisville suburb, said Elizabeth A. Fries, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Kentucky office.
Moore flew from Sydney to Louisville for the arrest, but would not go into detail about what led police to Peters.
“There was a range of pieces of evidence that led us to identify this suspect,” he said at a news conference at FBI offices in Louisville.
Peters is an Australian citizen but has lived in the U.S., including Kentucky. His initial court appearance was set for Tuesday in Louisville and the extradition process will take about two months, Fries said.
His capture comes nearly two weeks after 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver was attacked in the wealthy Sydney suburb of Mosman as part of what police say was an extortion attempt.
The Pulvers were relieved to hear of the arrest. William Pulver, CEO of an information technology company, described his daughter as “a bright, happy young woman who for reasons we still don’t understand had her life turned upside down going through this dreadful experience.”
“These past two weeks have been a very difficult time for us and we are hopeful that this development marks the beginning of the end of this traumatic ordeal for our family,” William Pulver told reporters in Sydney, his wife Belinda at his side.
Madeleine Pulver was alone studying for exams when a masked man broke into the house in the middle of the day, chained a device that looked like a bomb to her and left a note with demands before leaving. Moore said the man also tried to kidnap her.
Bomb technicians, negotiators and detectives rushed to the scene. Neighboring homes were evacuated, streets were closed and medical and fire crews waited nearby. Pulver spent 10 terrifying hours chained to the device before the bomb squad was able to free her. She was not hurt, and the device was later found to contain no explosives. Australia’s prime minister said the event resembled “a Hollywood script.”
Police say a note had been attached to the device, but they haven’t released details of what it said.
Peters’ ex-wife was not at home at the time of the arrest, and there is no indication she is involved in the case, Moore said.
Her five-bedroom, two-story house, which is on the market for $400,000, is in a quiet subdivision of La Grange, about 30 miles northeast of Louisville. As an FBI investigator combed through items on shelves Monday night in the neat three-car garage, neighbors who declined to identify themselves told The Associated Press that they didn’t know Peterses and that they kept to themselves.
A neighbor who refused to give his name said his two daughters were at home doing homework when the SWAT team “came in heavy and hard” to the house next door.
“We had guys with machine guns in our back yard,” he said.
No shots were fired and no sirens sounded, he said.
He and his wife estimated that Doug Peters had probably spent about six months out of the last two years at the house. They didn’t know him or his ex-wife very well but that there were no problems and that they were both congenial.
Authorities are still investigating why the suspect targeted the young woman, Moore said. Peters had been involved in various businesses but authorities would not elaborate what they were.
“This has been a baffling and frightening experience. It has tested us all,” said William Pulver.
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