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Vampire-fanged Utah trucker faces charges of kidnapping women

By Jennifer Dobner

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A Utah truck driver known for wearing vampire-fanged dentures is facing federal criminal charges over accusations he sexually abused two women who authorities said were held captive in the man's semi-tractor trailer as he traveled nationwide.

Prosecutors, in a complaint filed in federal court in Utah this week, said that Timothy Jay Vafeades held a 19-year-old relative hostage between May and November 2013, forcing her into sex more than 100 times, beating her and threatening her life when she attempted to flee.

Vafeades, 54, was arrested in December in Minnesota after a weigh station officer saw bruises on the woman's face and intervened. Another woman later came forward to say she, too, had been held and abused by the man.

Documents filed in U.S. District Court in Utah on Tuesday charge him with two counts each of kidnapping and transportation for illegal sexual activity, and one count of possession of child pornography and transportation of child pornography. The charges carry penalties that range from five years to life in prison.

The relative, who had moved to Salt Lake City from Florida to work for Vafeades's Twilight Express Trucking, told FBI agents that he had filed down her teeth with a small Dremel drill and an exacto knife to fit her with a set of false teeth because he didn't like her smile, according to an affidavit.

Vafeades, who was being held by authorities in Minnesota, appeared at a detention hearing on Wednesday in a North Dakota federal courtroom, said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for Utah's U.S. attorney said.

A judge ordered Vafeades detained, and he will be transported to Utah to stand trial, Rydalch said. A telephone message left for Vafeades's court-appointed attorney in Fargo was not immediately returned on Thursday.

News reports about Vafeades' arrest in Minnesota prompted a second woman to tell authorities she had also been kidnapped and held captive by Vafeades, after meeting the driver for dinner at a Salt Lake City truck stop in April 2012, court papers say.

The woman reported suffering repeated beatings with a belt, being forced into sex and threatened over a period of three months, and she unwillingly married him during a trip through Idaho, court papers say.

Vafeades also forced the woman to change her appearance by cutting and coloring her hair and filing down her teeth, court papers say. She said Vafeades told her she was his slave.

The woman was rescued by weigh station officers in Nebraska, who also noticed she was bruised. Vafeades was not arrested, but the incident was reported to authorities in Florida, where the woman said an assault occurred, court papers say. A battery charge against Vafeades is pending there, court papers say.

Both women told federal agents that Vafeades had warned them not to look at other men and threatened them with violence if they spoke to any other person. He also held their personal identification documents in his wallet and disabled their cell phones, court papers say.

Both women were also forced to watch child pornography; a search of the semi-trailer uncovered external hard drives which contained hundreds of images, according to police.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Leslie Adler)

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