Brave Escape: Kidnapped woman's year-long nightmare ends at South Jersey gas station

What began as an innocent act of kindness became one woman's fight for her life across the country in New Jersey's Burlington County.

New Jersey State police say 57-year-old James Parillo met the victim in New Mexico last February when she agreed to drive him to Arizona.

The suspect and victim then entered into a month-long relationship, which ended when he assaulted her in California.

"During their time together, the suspect allegedly took away the woman’s phone, confiscated and utilized her debit cards, and isolated her from her family," police said.

The pair ended up renting a room at a house in New Gretna, New Jersey, where police say the woman was kidnapped, beaten and choked by the suspect.

On February 7, the woman made her escape, running bare foot in 40-degree weather to a nearby gas station.


A gas station attendant was sitting outside on break when she heard people screaming, and running around the corner.

"He was screaming you don't wanna do this, and then she got up to me, and she said I've been kidnapped, call 911," Jammie Garthaus said.

The woman then ran inside and locked the deadbolt, an escape plan she told police she devised during a prior visit.

"She was saying that he choked her. She had like a red mark around her throat," Garthaus said. "You can see like his thumbprint, and she was saying that he held her captive."

Police were called, and the man was arrested a short time later walking along County Road 542. 

"I think these people are heroic, and I think of the lady her self is very heroic," said local resident Bruce Eveland. "I applaud them and I hope this guy does the rest of his life in jail. He took a year away from his lady's life."

Authorities say they have reason to believe that Parrillo may have engaged in similar "predatory conduct" with other women in other states, and are asking with anyone with such possible information to call New Jersey State Police at 855-363-6548.