Green Bay woman rescued after being held captive in Dominican Republic for months

Published: Jan. 27, 2020 at 5:23 PM CST
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"It's a Sunday afternoon in Green Bay, Wisconsin at 3:45. You're not expecting somebody to call from a foreign country, saying they're a resident from the east side of Green Bay and they're being held captive," says Brown County communications supervisor Tracy Ertl.

But that is exactly the call that came into the Brown County 911 center Sunday afternoon.

The woman who made that call is believed to be safe thanks to her fast thinking, finding a way to call dispatchers thousands of miles away in Green Bay.

She called the non-emergency line to the Brown County Dispatch Center, saying she'd been held captive in the Dominican Republic for months but managed to escape and needed help fast.

Her frantic international call sets dispatchers and police in Green Bay on a mission to find her before her abductor gets to her first.

"It's not a typical call we get, but we're trained to take those calls," says Ertl, who admits the call at first sounds like a hoax or something out of a movie.

"She said that she was in the Dominican Republic and that she was being held against her will," describes Ertl, recounting the call.

The young woman tells a call-taker she is from the east side of Green Bay, but met a man online and flew to the Dominican Republic to meet him in October, planning to stay a few weeks.

Instead, she says she's been held captive since.

Green Bay Police say she had not been reported missing.

Ertl says the woman describes the place where she was being kept as "a house with chains on it."

She tells dispatchers her abductor took her passport and phone, and she'd tried to escape before, but says police there misunderstood her and didn't help.

She also tells them she'd tried calling 911 in that country, but would only get a busy signal or silence.

But Sunday, the woman sees an opportunity and runs to a market somewhere in a village near Santo Domingo, convincing someone there to help her.

Using a device with an app to access Wi-Fi, she has the smarts to dial the non-emergency number (920-391-7450) that patches her into Brown County's 911 dispatch center.

Ertl says it takes only moments for the original call-taker and Ertl herself to know the situation is real and very dangerous.

"She was ready for us with this is who I am. This is where I live. I'm being held against my will. This is my circumstance, and I don't have much time because I ran here and he could come back at any time," describes Ertl.

The communications supervisor immediately brings in Green Bay Police, and together, they try to get the woman to describe her surroundings.

But she's in a place she can't name, with no address, and her voice is distorted by the overseas call.

"It's a pink building. This the color of the lettering. This is what the roof looks like. We were zooming right into Google Earth and trying to see at least in general where she was," says Ertl.

But time is working against them.

"My worst fear was that we would be on an open line, that I would have a call-taker on that open line, along with me, and we would hear her being taken again," she says.

Knowing she had to get help moving in the Dominican, Ertl does something she's never done in her 27 years working in dispatch.

"I'm not sure I've ever had to call a U.S. Embassy before, but we jumped right to the U.S. Embassy because I knew they'd have the power and authority to bring in those secondary resources," she says, adding she only thought about the Embassy because of work her son had told her about while in the Marines.

That paid off.

For three and a half hours, the search continues.

They all try to stay calm.

"I told her at the end, we're coming for you. We're coming to get you. Help is coming. We're going to get you out of there," says Ertl, recounting those tense moments.

Shortly after 7 p.m. Central time, officials in the Dominican locate the woman.

"I cried. We have a Green Bay citizen that's safe," says Ertl. "Last night we got a win!"


The woman reached out to Action 2 News Wednesday and told us she is safe and OK. She's in the process of returning to the United States. The woman asks people respect her privacy and refrain from judgment. She's also thankful for the people who helped to rescue her.