Man accused of kidnapping friend says he has evidence to refute charges

Stephen Milder (KXAN Photo)
Stephen Milder (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Hutto man charged last month with the aggravated kidnapping of a San Marcos woman in Austin says that’s not what happened, publicly denying the charges against him.

Stephen Milder, 24, told KXAN he has evidence that the woman’s claims are false. “This did not happen the way she said it did. She was not kidnapped.”

Milder says the victim in this case, Hillary Harris, texted him asking him to pick her up, even providing him with the address she wanted to be picked up from.

“I went there and I picked her up, as she asked, and we went to San Marcos,” said Milder. He says they stayed in San Marcos for around 15 minutes, but got into an argument. So Milder says he drove her back to Austin.

“As the argument progressed, and got worse and worse, she started becoming more and more irate. I pulled over, asking her to get out of my car if she couldn’t control herself, and she refused several times,” said Milder. “She started texting really quickly on her phone. I didn’t really think much of it.”

Little did he know, at that point on the night of June 22, Harris texted her friend stating she had been kidnapped by Milder, and that he was punching her whenever he saw her texting. The victim was able to relay the type of vehicle she was in and says Milder was driving her around in circles in West Campus and then somewhere on Oltorf Street.

Hillary Harris talks about being kidnapped and stalked by a man who became obsessed with her. (KXAN Photo)
Hillary Harris talks about being kidnapped and stalked by a man who became obsessed with her. (KXAN Photo)

“She texted me from her number asking me to pick her up, and there was no physical abuse inside that car,” Milder said.

Harris told KXAN she had no choice but to go with him. “He was angry and agitated and then he was like, ‘We can make this hard or we can make this easy.'”

When her friend contacted Austin police just after 10 p.m., they were able to use the department’s HALO cameras to track the car. But police said there were long periods of time where the victim wouldn’t respond, only saying that “she was being threatened and couldn’t talk,” the affidavit continued.

Milder says he dropped Harris off on San Gabriel Street, where he picked her up and drove home.

Austin police arrested Milder at his home in Hutto, to his surprise. “When he told me aggravated kidnapping, I wanted to faint. I was in shock because I knew I didn’t do that,” he said. “I think about it every day. Try to figure out a reason. I’ll never know why, the particular reason why she did it.”

Harris told police she had known Milder since February of this year, but they were only friends and were never romantically involved. However, Harris said Midler became “obsessed” with her. She said she had to report him to police when he threw rocks at her apartment in San Marcos.

Two weeks before the kidnapping, Harris said she cut Milder out of her life and said his behavior became more erratic. She said she lived in fear, knowing that Milder stalked her.

Milder claims their communication was consensual, that he was not obsessed with her.

“She would call me. She would text me. We would text each other back and forth,” he said. “I did not stalk her and did not blow up her phone. If she had asked me to leave her life, I would [have].”

According to court documents, the victim said she filed police reports regarding Milder with San Marcos police and Austin police but never got the protection she needed “due to the overlap in jurisdiction.”

Stephen Milder (Austin Police Department)
Stephen Milder (Austin Police Department)

“I just think after like after four or five times of the literal same reason I’m calling the cops, he should be flagged or like take me seriously,” Harris told KXAN last month. “I’m almost relieved that something happened finally to where I can be taken seriously by people who are not my immediate friends and family. I think the only reason I was taken seriously was because I was physically hurt. I even think if I wasn’t physically hurt, they wouldn’t have taken it as serious.”

Harris says she’s now in the process of getting an emergency protection order against him.

As part of Milder’s bond conditions, he has an ankle monitor and cannot go near Harris. His next court date is set for Aug. 21. He is still charged with aggravated kidnapping.

Austin police say every case follows a clear process. The first goal when responding to a scene? Protect everyone. Next? Conduct an investigation. Third? Interview everyone involved.

“We take all the information so that we can have the best, or a clearer picture of what actually occurred. Then an officer will write an offense report,” explained Officer Destiny Winston with APD.

“A detective will review the case and they will determine, ‘Does it meet elements of a criminal offense? Is this even a criminal offense? Is this something we need to investigate further?’ They will give it the appropriate title and then they’ll either clear it, or they’ll continue on with the investigation and then it will go up to either having a warrant served, and then on to the courts.”

Winston says working any case takes cooperation and communication from all parties involved.

“Sometimes gathering all the information and putting all the pieces of the puzzle together can take some time,” she said. “We look at it objectively. That’s what police officers do. We’re there to enforce the letter of the law. So, we look at it from that perspective and the more information that we have, the better.”

But, the bottom line? APD takes victim reports very seriously.

“When we receive a 911 call, it’s an emergency — nine times out of 10. We’re here to help enforce the law and of course, protect victims of any type of violent crime. That’s what we want to do,” said Winston.

There are several community and department resources available at APD, including a large number of victim services counselors and advocates across Central Texas, as well as legal aid services. Whether you are involved in a dating or family disturbance situation, police want you to call 911 to report it and take advantage of those services to stay safe.

To learn more about victim services available through the Austin Police Department, click here. 

For more information about stalking, visit the Stalking Resource Center online. To learn more about domestic violence and legal assistance in Texas, click here. 

Editor’s Note: The case against Milder was dismissed on Sept. 29, 2017. The court records indicate the victim did not cooperate with the investigation so the state had insufficient evidence to proceed.

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