Editor’s Note: Details in this story may be disturbing to some readers.
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A man with ties to nearly a dozen states is in federal custody after he allegedly kidnapped a woman and kept her in a cinder block cell in an Oregon home. FBI investigators believe there may be additional victims.
The FBI announced that 29-year-old Negasi Zuberi — also known as Sakima, Justin Hyche and Justin Kouassi — is in federal custody for the interstate kidnapping after the woman escaped from the makeshift cell, beating her hands bloody in the process.
On Saturday, July 15, 2023, Zuberi traveled from his Klamath Falls home to Seattle where he solicited a prostitute then posed as an undercover police officer, according to court documents.
The victim told investigators that Zuberi pointed a taser at her and put her in handcuffs and leg irons in the back seat of his car, then drove about 450 miles with the woman and sexually assaulted her, authorities said.
The woman said once they arrived at the Klamath Falls home, he put her into a makeshift cell in the garage made of cinder blocks. It also had a metal door, installed in reverse so it could not be opened from the inside, officials said.
Zuberi left the residence, and, while he was gone, the victim “briefly slept and awoke to the realization that she would likely die if she did not attempt to escape,” according to the court doc.
She escaped by punching and banging on the door several times to break the welds, ripped a screen door and crawled out of a small space. Police said she had several lacerations on her hands.
The woman then flagged down a driver for help and called 911.
After interviewing Zuberi’s wife and neighbors, investigators determined that Zuberi was associated with the residence where the kidnapping victim was allegedly held.
The next day, Zuberi allegedly fled to Reno and was found by authorities “within hours of his efforts to evade law enforcement,” officials said.
Zuberi, who officers found holding one of his children in the front seat of his vehicle, was taken into custody after a standoff with local police and the FBI in a public parking lot of a major shopping center, officials said. The child was not harmed, but the criminal complaint states that Zuberi cut himself with a sharp object and tried to destroy his phone before officers took him into custody.
After his arrest, Zuberi appeared in front of a federal judge on July 26 and will be taken back to Oregon.
Authorities say Zuberi has been charged with a federal criminal complaint for one count of interstate kidnapping, which carries a maximum sentence of up to life in prison.
“According to the complaint, this woman was kidnapped, chained, sexually assaulted, and locked in a cinderblock cell. Police say she beat the door with her hands until they were bloody in order to break free. Her quick thinking and will to survive may have saved other women from a similar nightmare,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Stephanie Shark with the FBI Portland Field Office. “We are fortunate that this brave woman escaped and alerted authorities. Through quick law enforcement action we were able to get Zuberi in custody the next day. While she may have helped protect future victims, sadly we have now linked Zuberi to additional violent sexual assaults in at least four states and there could be more.”
During the press conference, FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Stephanie Shark said, “the victim is strong and courageous and right now she is physically okay, and we are working with her through our victim services department to make sure she has whatever resources she needs to continue to be resilient.”
Shark added that this case points to the suspect’s “ongoing and escalating pattern of violence targeting women in multiple states throughout the country.”
Authorities said they do not believe he was from Oregon and was in the state for a few months. According to the FBI, he lived in 10 states over the past 10 years and authorities believe there could be additional victims. The investigation has expanded to multiple states including Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Utah, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Alabama and Nevada.
Officials said Zuberi is linked to at least four sexual assaults in four other states.
The FBI said Zuberi may have used different methods to “gain control” of his victims including drugging their drinks and impersonating police. Authorities said the victims are often threatened with retaliation if they contact the authorities.
The FBI encourages those who believe they are victims to contact them.