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Connecticut kidnapping suspect stopped at Canadian border with teenage girl due to lack of COVID test

Federal authorities in Vermont were holding a Connecticut man on a kidnapping charge Saturday, saying he abducted a girl from Torrington but failed to get her across the Canadian border because both lacked proof of COVID tests.

Parents of the 16-year-old girl who was with Christopher Constanzo when he was refused entry into Canada Thursday morning had reported her missing Wednesday night. The girl told federal investigators that Constanzo raped her twice on the way from Connecticut through Vermont and had threatened her with a knife, a federal affidavit says. U.S. authorities said the sexual assault complaints are under investigation.

The girl told investigators she met Constanzo, 19, of Torrington, through a mutual friend. She went with him voluntarily on Wednesday night, but he sexually assaulted her in Connecticut at about 9 p.m. and then forced her into the trunk of a Toyota Camry registered to her mother, keeping her there until about 4 a.m. on Thursday, the federal affidavit says.

At some point in the night, the girl told authorities, Constanzo removed her from the trunk and raped her again, but she could not tell where they were, the affidavit says.

Constanzo had restrained the girl with a shoelace, authorities said, and kept the tie on her when he removed her from the trunk and placed her in the back seat. He moved her to the front seat as they neared the border, authorities said. Surveillance footage inside a convenience store in the greater Burlington area shows a man resembling Costanzo at the counter at about 3:40 a.m. Thursday, Vermont police said.

During the trip from Connecticut through Vermont, Constanzo used the girl’s cellphone, sending messages pretending to be her, federal officials said. As they approached the crossing at Highgate Springs, Vt., Constanzo told the girl to “act normal” and “go along with the story,” the affidavit says. He told Canadian border officials at the St-Armand Philipsburg crossing that the girl was his sister and they planned to visit friends in Canada and stay for about four days, U.S. officials said. But Canadian officials turned them away because both lacked proof of COVID tests, U.S. officials said.

Back on the U.S. side, customs and border officials separated Constanzo and the girl and she told them he had kidnapped and raped her, the affidavit says. A knife was found on Constanzo, officials said. In the 2007 Camry, investigators found a shoe without a lace, a single shoelace in the back seat and strands of hair in the trunk that appeared to match the girl’s hair, authorities said. She was taken to a hospital in St. Albans, Vt., for a sexual assault examination, authorities said.

Torrington police could not be reached on the status of their investigation, but a federal motion for detention says city police were investigating a sexual assault complaint against Constanzo by another victim from July. A search warrant had been issued on Nov. 22 for an electronic device associated with that case, suggesting that Constanzo may have been fleeing the country to avoid arrest, U.S. officials said in the detention motion.

“Further, there are troubling similarities between the events described by the victim of the July 2021 assault and the events described by the victim in this case,” the motion says, “including the defendant’s use of a knife to threaten the victims with harm in both instances and the defendant’s threats to hurt the victims’ family members if the victims spoke about the incidents.”

Constanzo was being held pending a hearing set for Tuesday at 1 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Burlington. He was assigned a public defender.

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