People searching for Christmas tree find half-naked kidnapping victim instead

A woman who was kidnapped and left partially clothed in a rural part of Shasta County was found by a group of people out looking for a Christmas tree, authorities said Wednesday.

The 25-year-old woman told police she had been taken from the area of Mistletoe Lane and Victor Avenue in Redding on Sunday afternoon, according to the Redding Police Department. The Shasta County Sheriff's Office responded to the call and began an investigation, and the woman was transported and admitted to a Redding hospital.

The woman, whose identity is being withheld by police, was suffering from exposure when the group found her Monday. She told authorities she had been taken by two acquaintances: Johanna Knighten, 33, and Fred Sanderson, 44.

The woman said Knighten drove her in a white van and Sanderson physically assaulted her and held her against her will, possibly because they thought she had stolen narcotics from Sanderson.

She was dropped off at a remote area about six miles from Highway 44, police said, and forced to undress. She was left wearing only a pair of shorts.

The woman did not know where she was and had no way of contacting anyone for help, police said. She was exposed to cold temperatures, rain and snow. To survive the night, she found shelter in a burned-out tree and drank water from a mud puddle, she said.

On Tuesday, police found Knighten driving a van in the downtown Redding area. She was arrested and booked on suspicion of kidnapping, attempted murder and conspiracy, authorities said.

Police are still searching for Sanderson. Anyone with information about the incident or Sanderson’s location is asked to contact the Redding Police Department at (530) 225-4200.

sarah.parvini@latimes.com

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