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Abduction suspect appears in Hall court
Police: Man tried to kidnap woman in Publix parking lot
Christopher Emerson enters Hall County Magistrate Court for a preliminary hearing Thursday morning. - photo by Robin Michener Nathan

A judge heard testimony Thursday in the case of a Flowery Branch man charged with trying to abduct a woman in a grocery store parking lot last month.

Christopher Joseph Emerson, 24, appeared in Hall County Magistrate Court for a preliminary hearing on charges of kidnapping, battery, reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident.

Emerson is accused of approaching and grabbing a 29-year-old woman in the Publix parking lot on Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch on March 30. According to police, the woman said she did not know the man who assaulted her.

A police officer testified Thursday that the victim said a man stepped from the passenger side of a car parked next to hers, grabbed her by the elbow and ordered her to get into her car.

"He pushed her against the vehicle and eventually to the ground," Flowery Branch Police Officer Roy Banks testified. The woman’s screams attracted the attention of others and the man got back in his car, striking her car as he backed out and nearly hitting a pedestrian while speeding from the parking lot, Banks said.

The victim had bruises to her arm and abrasions to her fingers from the fall, he said.

Police responded at about 11 a.m. that Sunday to a report of a possible attempted carjacking outside the store. Banks said he was given a description of a gold Honda fleeing the scene but was unable to locate the suspect’s car.

Police were eventually able to trace the suspect’s car, a gold Saturn, from a tag number provided by a witness. The car came back as being registered to Emerson’s mother. Police went to her home on Somoa Way in Flowery Branch and found the car, with damage to the bumper, and Emerson inside the house. A search of the car turned up a box cutter and a T-shirt that had been stretched out with knots tied at both ends, Banks said.

The victim and a witness later picked out Emerson from a photo lineup, Banks said.

Police reviewed surveillance video from a nearby Target department store where the victim had been shopping earlier in the day and saw a car matching the description of Emerson’s car circling the parking lot "for the most part of 45 minutes prior to the incident," Banks said.

The victim’s car was parked out of view of the Target store’s surveillance camera, he said.

Banks testified that Emerson’s mother asked if her son was on drugs when police came to her house.

"She started questioning if he was in trouble — what had he done this time," Banks testified.

Emerson has no prior criminal arrests in Hall County, with one citation for speeding, according to court records.

Assistant Circuit Defender Brett Willis told Associate Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Reisman he felt a more appropriate charge to be bound over to superior court would be false imprisonment rather than kidnapping.

"We have someone jumping out of a car, grabbing someone, pushing them down and causing them to have bruises," Willis said. "It’s criminal, but it’s not kidnapping."

Assistant District Attorney Juliet Aldridge countered that "only the slightest movement of the victim is required" for a kidnapping charge.

Reisman agreed, and bound the case over to superior court as charged, where it could be presented to a grand jury for possible indictment.

Emerson remains in the Hall County jail without bond.