Kayla McCabe and her fiance Sean McNiel drove to Rigby for gas the evening Dec. 22 when they found 47-year-old Brent J. Merrell hiding in the backseat of McCabe's car.
Merrell was not taken into custody that evening but he has been charged with Unlawful Entry and was issued a misdemeanor in Jefferson County with his arraignment set for 1 p.m. Jan. 4.
Before finding Merrell, McCabe was driving home from work when she had to turn around and take a different route due to a wreck in the area. After arriving home, McCabe saw a post on the neighborhood Facebook page about a hit and run accident where a man fled the scene, with the poster warning others to lock their doors.
McCabe took her key fob and locked the car from inside her living room.
Around 10:30 p.m., McCabe and McNiel decided to drive to the Good-to-Go Gas station in Rigby on S State Street for snacks and drinks.
As they sat in McCabe's car waiting for the windows to defrost, she stated that she thought the car smelled weird.
According to Jefferson County Sheriff Steve Anderson, the car accident most likely occurred near the county line between Bonneville and Jefferson Counties, which resulted in Merrell ending up in Rigby as McCabe and McNiel went for gas after he hid in their vehicle.
McCabe said that after arriving at Good-to-Go, McNiel looked in the backseat and asked about some items in the row. As he reached back to look, McNiel touched Merrell who flinched and tried to shrink down into the backseat more.
"My fiance was like 'Oh my gosh! Who are you?," McCabe recounted. "The guy was hiding under a jacket and started to say that this was all a misunderstanding."
McCabe said she exited the vehicle while Merrell told them that the car belonged to a friend of his who was letting him sleep there for the night. McCabe and McNiel argued with the man, stating that they were the owners of the car while he refused to exit the vehicle.
Merrell then grabbed the seats as he tried to pull himself forward. McNiel pushed him to keep him distanced in the backseat while McNiel left the vehicle and then attempted to get Merrell out of the car as well.
"He kept saying that the car was his friends and that he was allowed to sleep there while my fiance tried to get him out of the car," she said.
McCabe said she called the police during the struggle to get Merrell out of the car and that the operator was able to dispatch officers to the scene quickly.
"During this, my fiance saw he had a cut or gash on the back of his head and we figured that he must have been the man from the hit and run in our neighborhood," she stated.
McNiel was able to get Merrell out of the car but he continued to try and get back into the car, which is when he pushed Merrell away from them. McCabe said her fiance was concerned about keeping Merrill away from her as they were unsure if his intentions were to harm them.
Once the police arrived, McCabe said the man tried to claim that they were his friends and that he didn't know why they were mad at him and that they had beat him up.
"The officers asked us if we knew him and of course we've never seen this guy before in our lives," McCabe said. "The officers asked him what our names were and he was totally off."
McCabe said Merrell got blood in her car and also had a bottle of Gatorade with him that rolled under the car during the struggle to get him out of the vehicle. She's unsure of the contents of the bottle but stated Merrell might have been on some type of substance.
"The officers were absolutely phenomenal," McCabe said. "They were able to help talk down my anxiety and even searched my entire car in order to ensure that there wasn't anything else in there. It's pretty crazy that we just locked him inside our car. Normally I'm really good about checking the backseat too."
"It felt like it was from a movie," McCabe said. "You think about what you would do in those situations when you're watching a movie and you think about if you would be a fight-or-flight person. In that situation, all I wanted to do was get out of the way of my fiance and that guy."
McCabe praised the responding officers stating that although she can't remember any names from that night, she's thankful for an officer that stayed by her side throughout the ordeal.
"I went into shock," she recalled. "They did so good from the minute they arrived and it was awesome that we got the officers we did. The one that stayed with me was able to get me talking and tried to lighten the situation and get my mind off of it. The situation was quite terrifying but that was so sweet of him."