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Man charged in abduction, assault of young girl

CASPER — A man accused of kidnapping a child from a south Casper apartment complex on Wednesday — and then eluding police for 24 hours — now faces up to life in prison.

Prosecutors on Friday afternoon filed three felony charges against Joshua Hicks, 32, who, authorities have said, abducted a young girl on Wednesday morning from a lawn near Southwest Wyoming Boulevard and sexually abused her. He then dropped her in the area of the apartment building and left in a truck, according to a series of news releases police issued in connecting to the case.

On Friday afternoon in Natrona County Circuit Court, Assistant District Attorney Jared Holbrook said Hicks did not know the child he abducted. The prosecutor called Hicks “an absolute danger to the community” and asked Judge Brian Christensen to set bail at $500,000 cash-only.

The judge agreed with the recommended bond setting but, diverging from typical procedure, did not identify Hicks by first name or read his charges in open court.

The judge instead referred to him as “Mr. Hicks” and read the potential sentences of imprisonment associated with the three charges: 20 years to life, 20 years maximum and 15 years maximum.

Three law enforcement sources familiar with the case confirmed Hicks’ identity to the Casper Star-Tribune. His name is also corroborated by publicly available Natrona County Circuit Court records that match Holbrook’s description of Hicks’ criminal record.

In a statement issued at 9 a.m. Friday that did not identify Hicks by name, police said the suspect in the case would face charges of kidnapping and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. A person familiar with the case said on Friday afternoon that prosecutors had charged Hicks with aggravated kidnapping, second-degree sexual abuse of a minor and third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The statutory sentencing guidelines for those charges match the potential penalties read by Christensen in court.

During Hicks’ brief appearance, he spoke in near-whispers to answer Christensen’s questions about his biography. Hicks, who wore Natrona County Detention Center apparel, gave his age and said he has lived in Natrona County — where his family also lives — for decades.

Holbrook, the prosecutor, told the judge Hicks was arrested in 2005 for masturbating in public. Court records indicate he was charged with public indecency by exposure in fall 2015. Three months later, prosecutors dismissed the charge. Records available on Friday afternoon did not indicate the circumstances of the dismissal.

A police affidavit outlining the details of the allegations against Hicks was not available late Friday afternoon. However, as police searched for Hicks, they provided some details of the circumstances leading to his arrest.

Police first issued a statement about the case on Wednesday afternoon, stating they received a report the morning of the same day of a child abduction. Shortly before 11 a.m., when police arrived at the scene near Southwest Wyoming Boulevard’s intersections with South Coffman Avenue and South Poplar Street, the child was present. Further details of the abduction and subsequent recovery of the child were not provided in the statement. Police described the suspect as an unidentified white man. They also released a photo of a truck they said was involved in the alleged abduction.

Police issued another statement shortly before midnight indicating they were still looking for a person in connection with the case. On Thuesday morning, an agency spokeswoman again said police — along with other local, state and federal agencies — were still searching for a suspect in connection with the case.

Early Thursday afternoon, police said they had found the person suspected of abducting the child and were interviewing him. The 1 p.m. Thursday announcement stated a patrol team, with the assistance of community members, had identified and found the suspect. The statement did not include details specifying how the suspect was apprehended.

Then, on Friday morning, police issued the statement saying a man had been arrested in the case and was facing charges of kidnapping and second-degree sexual abuse of a minor.

Hicks has not yet had an opportunity to enter pleas to the charges. He will be allowed before the end of the month to challenge prosecutors’ probable cause for the charges in a preliminary hearing. If Hicks waives the hearing or his challenge is unsuccessful, the case will then advance to district court, where he will be asked to enter pleas.

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