Tuesday, 01/31/2023 | 8:37 a.m
A man who was at the center of an intense police manhunt in Oregon after a violent kidnapping last week was released from custody by Nevada prison officials in October 2021, the same day he was transferred to the custody of the jailer to serve a kidnapping sentence was transferred to the state, the authorities announced on Monday.
Benjamin Obadiah Foster, 36, faced decades in prison in Nevada after being charged with five felonies in 2019, including assault and assault. But a deal with Clark County prosecutors allowed him to plead guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges instead, and a judge sentenced him to between one and two and a half years in a state prison in September 2021.
William Quenga, a spokesman for the Nevada prison system, told The Associated Press in an email that Foster arrived at a prison reception facility on Oct. 18, 2021, but was released the same day because the judge’s 729 days factored into Foster’s punishment. He had been in prison awaiting trial.
That means Foster was serving his minimum sentence behind bars, but was half a year away from serving the maximum sentence set by the judge.
Clark County District Judge Tierra Jones and District Attorney Steve Wolfson did not respond to requests for comment.
The victim in the Oregon case was found unconscious and handcuffed in Grants Pass, Oregon on January 24. She was hospitalized in critical condition and has not regained consciousness since, Grants Pass Police Lieutenant Jeff Hattersley said.
The case has shocked residents of Grants Pass, a town of about 40,000 in southwest Oregon off Interstate 5. Grants Pass Police Chief Warren Hensman told the AP it was “extremely disturbing” that Foster was wanted for attempted murder in Oregon rather than still behind bars in Nevada.
Foster narrowly escaped a police raid Thursday in the nearby unincorporated community of Wolf Creek, Oregon, and may have altered his appearance by shaving his beard and hair or changing his hair color, police said.
Police initially released a photo of Foster showing him with shoulder-length brown hair, but he had cut it and grown a thicker beard since the photo was taken. He may have continued to change his appearance since then, Hattersley said.
“We get all kinds of calls about people walking down I-5, they have long beards and long hair,” Hattersley said. “We have a feeling he doesn’t really look like that at this point.”
Police on Friday offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to Foster’s arrest and prosecution. None of the 50 or so leads that have since been received, mostly by phone, have been solid enough to lead to Foster, who Hattersley says is charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and assault.
The Thursday night raid in Wolf Creek, about 20 miles north of Grants Pass, involved Grants Pass police, deputy sheriffs, an Oregon State Police SWAT team and federal agents.
Foster, who had been there on the family estate, slipped away. Forested mountains surround the community, but investigators believe Foster had help getting out of the area rather than disappearing into the wilderness on his own.
Grants Pass Police said Friday that Foster is using online dating applications to contact unsuspecting people to lure them into helping him escape or potentially finding new victims. Hattersley said Monday that investigators no longer believe Foster was trying to find more victims, but could have sought an unwitting person to help him avoid the intense police manhunt.
“That’s why we put this out,” he said. “We don’t want anyone unknowingly thinking they’re meeting a great guy who’s actually a wanted felon trying to escape.”
Before moving to Oregon, Foster held his then-girlfriend captive in her Las Vegas apartment for two weeks before she managed to escape in October 2019. Police said the woman suffered seven broken ribs, two black eyes and was choked into unconsciousness during her detention.
Foster was released from prison two years later after finalizing his deal with the Clark County Attorney’s Office.
Selsky reported from Salem, Oregon.