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Minn. woman recounts kidnapping at hands of her former husband

By Janna Goerdt / Duluth News Tribune

VIRGINIA, Minn. – Roberta Caskey remembers seeing her former husband standing on a street corner, looking around.

Timothy Caskey had been released from jail earlier in the day on July 14, 2011, after being held for violating the order for protection Roberta had filed against him. Once out, he called her repeatedly; Virginia police advised her to stay inside.

But Roberta, known as Bobbi to her family and friends, went outside that evening to locate her 9-year-old son. That’s when she saw Timothy standing on the corner.

She remembers seeing his red truck driving toward them, and then a blur of him jumping from the truck and grabbing her. She remembers dropping to the ground, seeing a confused sight of gravel, and being picked up again. Roberta Caskey was being kidnapped.

Thus began a nearly three-year-long ordeal starting with Bobbi Caskey being beaten with a screwdriver as her husband sped south toward Mexico, and ending last week, when Timothy Caskey pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping and bank robbery charges. He remains in custody awaiting sentencing.

“It was horrible, horrible,” Bobbi Caskey said, as she recounted the experience in detail. Her clear hazel eyes widened and narrowed as she told her story. “I never thought that it would happen.”

She and Timothy had been neighbors in Virginia before they began dating. They married in 2010, and for the first six months or so, he was kind to Bobbi and her young children.

“But then he changed,” she said. He began to abuse her physically and emotionally. She tried to distance herself by filing an order for protection against him and decided to end the marriage.

But Timothy had other ideas.

Robbery on the way to Mexico

Once he had dragged Bobbi Caskey into his truck that July evening, she said, he pointed the truck south.

“I was screaming and crying, asking him to let me go, yelling at him to stop,” she said. In response, he beat her left arm and side with a screwdriver and tried to force her to take a handful of white pills, which she refused.

As they traveled on the freeway, Bobbi Caskey said she imagined popping open the door and spilling herself onto the pavement – but she didn’t. She worried that she would be killed, or her husband would just capture her again.

She said she continued to plead to be released, to no avail.

“He told me, ‘You’re mine now,’ ” she said.

They stopped at the Great Southern Bank in Ottawa, Kan., and Timothy bound his wife’s ankles and hands as she again pleaded with him to stop. Timothy Caskey reached in the glove compartment for a piece of paper on which to write a ransom note, entered the bank, and walked out with a bag of bills. He again headed south.

As they approached the U.S.-Mexico border, Timothy Caskey ordered his wife to say she had been beaten and robbed in the United States, which was why she had no identification, Bobbi said. She complied, and they crossed the border into Matamoros, Mexico.

The next thing Bobbi Caskey remembers is the sparse room in which she spent the next three weeks.

There was a bed, a small refrigerator, a sink, no pictures on the walls. Bobbi Caskey was forced to leave the bathroom door open at all times. She remembers sitting on the bed for hours at a time, doing nothing. Sometimes Timothy Caskey brought tacos and bottled water, and sometimes he left her hungry and thirsty, she said. He was always in control.

And that was her life for a while. The days blurred together; sometimes they went outside, but there was nowhere Bobbi felt she could turn to for help.

“If I ran up to someone on the street, would they be able to understand me?” she said. And if so, would they believe her? Would anyone be able to help her before Timothy caught sight of her? She had no identification, no money, no idea even of where in Mexico she was. And Timothy kept threatening to kill her.

“I was too scared,” she said.

Timothy, meanwhile, needed more money. He tried to have the balance of her bank account from a Virginia bank transferred to a bank in Matamoros. Timothy tried to make the transaction happen on a Friday, Bobbi Caskey said, and the bank teller said he would have to return to the bank on Monday to access the money.

Perhaps that was his mistake – Bobbi Caskey isn’t sure. The last time she saw her former husband was as he walked down two concrete steps as he left the bank on Aug. 8, 2011; she was waiting in the truck. That’s when five Mexican law enforcement officials pounced on Timothy and dragged him to the ground, she said.

She began shaking, and her heart was racing, she said. “I didn’t know what they were going to do with me,” she said. It turns out they were going to take her home.

‘Cross that yellow line’

Much of her journey back was a blur, she says, but she clearly remembers crossing a long metal bridge that spanned the Mexico-U.S. border. She was escorted by a Mexican official up to the yellow line that demarcated the border, and met by a U.S. official who inquired whether she was Roberta Caskey, and if she was a U.S. citizen.

Yes, she answered, “and they said, ‘Cross that yellow line,’ ” Bobbi Caskey remembers. She was really on her way home.

It was a huge relief to see her children and family again, she said. She found that the wedding pictures of her and Timothy had been torn off the walls and flung to the floor – one had a fork stabbed through it – and she didn’t much mind.

Today, she still dreams about the experience, though much less often, Bobbi Caskey said. She might wake in a panic and feel like she is still in that small, sparse room in Mexico once every few months, rather than every night.

She talks about the experience a little, if someone asks. Sometimes people ask “ignorant” questions, she said, such as “ ‘How was your vacation?’ Some people don’t understand,” she said.

Timothy Caskey continued to send Bobbi letters while he was in custody, which Bobbi turned over to the police, unopened.

She appreciates all that local, state and federal law enforcement did to find her and get her home again – and she wishes that orders for protection could carry more legal weight.

The ordeal was also a learning experience for Eveleth Police Chief Tim Koivunen, who was a detective with the Virginia Police Department at the time of the kidnapping. The case consumed him while Bobbi was still missing, he said.

“I still think about it frequently,” Koivunen said recently. “I think it will always be in the back of my mind, one way or another.”

The ordeal also highlights the fact that “domestic violence is here, in every society,” Koivunen said. “It’s in every town, and we need to try and deal with it.”

There’s just one lingering connection between Bobbi Caskey and her former husband. For now, she has kept Timothy Caskey’s last name – but not for much longer. She plans to change it to something neutral, something common. She had to wait until the court proceedings were over, she said, so Timothy wouldn’t know what she has settled on.

“I don’t want him finding me again,” she said.

By Janna Goerdt, Forum News Service.

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