One man arrested, one on the run in connection with kidnapping and sexual assault in Luzerne County

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LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Police in Luzerne County say a young girl was kidnapped and sexually assaulted in a horrific case of human trafficking.

Officers rescued the 14-year-old on Monday after she was held captive for three days. Thursday, the Luzerne County District Attorney announced charges have been filed against two men. One is in custody and the other is at large.

“This is one of the most disturbing incidents that I have ever been involved in. It involves a real threat of human trafficking from a minor,” District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said.

Sanguedolce says the 14-year-old girl was walking along Union Street in Luzerne Borough Friday evening when she was approached by John Vincent Watson in a grey Volvo. According to court documents, Watson offered her a ride. She was hesitant, and he forced her into the car.

Police say Watson took her to William Smiley’s apartment on Main Street, Luzerne Borough where both Watson and Smiley forced her to take drugs and drink alcohol and sexually assaulted her.

Smiley’s charges include sexual assault and corruption of minors. At Smiley’s arraignment on Thursday, he blames Watson.

“Because he came to my house…With the girl. I think he probably did all this — he had to,” Smiley said.

Police say over the course of the next three days, Watson held her captive, took her to multiple locations and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. Court documents state she tries to escape but was forced back into Watson’s car. Sanguedolce says Watson took her to the Red Roof Inn in Plains where the assault continued.


“She was again threatened with physical violence and told that she was being taken to Philadelphia, where the defendant would change her appearance,” Sanguedolce said.

Monday morning, Watson left the hotel room and the victim was able to call 911 and she was rescued by Plains Township Police.


“In my 25 years as a police officer, this is the worst crime I have been involved with. I was involved with homicides, arsons…By far, this is the most disturbing case myself and most of my officers have ever seen. We have a very good case and hopefully we put him away and he never does this to another child again,” Plains Township Police Department Chief Dale Binker said.

Smiley is behind bars but Watson fled the area and is wanted by multiple law enforcement agencies. Watson faces a long list of charges which include sexual assault, rape, false imprisonment and terroristic threats.

Sanguedolce says he has made threats against police and is considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information on this crime or Watson’s whereabouts should call 911 and ask to be directed to Plains Township Police Department.

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