Crime

Man accused in Fort Worth girl’s kidnapping had previous sexual assault case dismissed

Fort Worth residents celebrate safe return of 8-year-old kidnapped

Fort Worth residents celebrated the safe return of Salem Sabatka, an 8-year-old who was kidnapped Saturday, May 18, 2019.
Up Next
Fort Worth residents celebrated the safe return of Salem Sabatka, an 8-year-old who was kidnapped Saturday, May 18, 2019.

A man accused in the kidnapping of an 8-year-old Fort Worth girl Saturday evening had been charged last year with sexual assault in Smith County but the case was later dismissed.

Smith County court records show Michael Webb, 51, was indicted in June on second-degree felony charges of sexual assault and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Both charges, however, were dismissed on a motion filed by prosecutors in November.

Richard Vance, the Smith County prosecutor who handled the case, said Sunday the dismissal came after the alleged victim in the case became uncooperative and apparently left the state.

“Our hands were pretty much tied on that one, otherwise we would have prosecuted him,” Vance said.

smithcomugsho_fitted.jpeg
Michael Webb Courtesy/Smith County Sheriff's Office

Vance said the charge stemmed from a single incident on April 26, 2018, at a Tyler motel.

He said the alleged victim, a woman in her 30s or 40s with a history of prostitution, had initially indicated to authorities that she and Webb were in some type of relationship. She accused him of striking her while displaying a deadly weapon and sexually assaulting her, Vance said.

“From the get-go, she was filing affidavits of non-prosecution,” Vance said. “That, in and of itself, doesn’t keep us from prosecuting but we made attempts to contact her with no success.”

Vance said investigators determined the woman, who had outstanding warrants for her arrest, had likely gone to another state.

“She was actively avoiding us,” Vance said. “... She was uncooperative, wanted, and was in a different state and was clearly moving around on the run.”

With the trial date approaching, Vance said, the District Attorney’s office decided to dismiss the charges without prejudice. By doing so, he said, the option remained open to still prosecute Webb in the future if they found the alleged victim.

“If we’d gone to trial without her, we’d run the risk of a not-guilty,” Vance said.

IMG-7198.JPG
This photo of 8-year-old Salem Sabatka was taken Saturday before she was allegedly kidnapped in Fort Worth. It is from her mother’s Instagram and is being shared on the Ryan Place neighborhood Facebook group. The outfit Salem is wearing in the photo is what she was wearing at the time of her alleged kidnapping. Provided

Vance said learning that Webb is now accused of kidnapping a young girl is disturbing news.

“When I heard the name, it bothers you because you hate hearing that as a prosecutor,” Vance said. “But our hands were pretty much tied on that one.”

Attorney Jason Parrish, who represented Webb in the dismissed Smith County cases, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Webb is accused of kidnapping 8-year-old Salem Sabatka as she walked with her mother near W. Lowden Street and 6th Avenue just after 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Police have said a man got out of a gray four-door sedan, grabbed the girl and pulled her into his car.

The child’s mother managed to jump into the car but was pushed out. A neighbor’s security camera captured the mother falling to the ground and her cries pleading for help.

Salem was found safe about eight hours later — at about 2:30 a.m. — at the WoodSprings Suites hotel in Forest Hill.

Fort Worth police said two people who attend a local church had spotted the car while driving around to help find the girl after seeing an image of the suspect’s car on social media. They led police to the hotel, where officers breached a door and found Salem inside.

Webb was arrested and the child was taken to a hospital to be checked out.

He is charged with aggravated kidnapping.

Webb doesn’t have a criminal history in Tarrant County, according to court records. His last known address is listed in Tyler, records say.

Webb has arrest records in Bowie County dating back to 1989 including burglary of a vehicle, burglary of a building, failure to identify as a fugitive and resisting arrest. In Tyler, Webb has been arrested on charges of terroristic threats, evading arrest and drug possession.

Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram

  Comments