But Christianson blackmailed her daughter with talk of suicide, and the 18-year-old Grand Haven woman wouldn’t leave him because she was afraid he might act on his threats, her mother testified.
The testimony was given Tuesday during the first day of an Ottawa County Circuit Court bench trial before Judge Jon Hulsing.
Some of Kopka’s fears were realized the night of Aug. 27, 2013, when her daughter, Journey Kopka, disappeared for a couple of hours to talk to Christianson. She was only supposed to be gone for a few minutes, her mother said.
When her daughter returned a couple of hours later, sobbing and injured, Kopka called police and told them Journey had been kidnapped.
Christianson, 20, was arrested early the next morning. The Spring Lake man is now on trial for unlawful imprisonment and felonious assault. He has been jailed since Sept. 9, when his bond was raised from $15,000 to $50,000.
Journey Kopka testified that she was supposed to hang out with a friend that night, but agreed to meet Christianson to talk for a few minutes. Her mother said they were just sitting down to watch a television show when Journey stopped in and said she was going to meet Christianson to return some shirts and would be back in a few minutes. That was just after 9 p.m.
Forty-five minutes later, Joi Kopka said she started to get worried when her daughter hadn't returned. She tried calling and texting both her daughter and Christianson, but did not get a response, she said. Then she found her daughter’s phone in her bedroom and was “on high alert” because she knew her daughter wouldn’t be gone long without it.
When Journey’s friend arrived and said she didn’t know where Journey was, “that’s when it all started hitting home,” Joi Kopka said.
Family members started searching for Christianson’s car, first going to the places the young couple would normally go to talk. Joi Kopka's first call to 911 was at 10:19 p.m., but she decided not to talk to police until she had checked some locations. Kopka said she returned home 25 minutes later and called for help to locate her daughter.
In the meantime, Journey testified, she walked over to the Second Reformed Church parking lot, where she talked to Christianson. Journey said Christianson talked about being depressed and wanting to die.
“He kept talking about wanting to kill himself,” she said.
Journey said she became frustrated with the talk and started to walk away. That’s when Christianson came up behind her, grabbed her by the shoulders and dragged her back to his car, she testified.
“I was in shock," she said. "I was saying, ‘No, I don’t want to go.’ He said, ‘No, you’re going to listen. We’re going to talk about this.’”
Journey described him shoving her into the car like a police officer, and then he locked the doors and windows.
“That’s when the fear initially started to kick in,” she said.
Journey testified that they drove to Rycenga Park in Spring Lake Township, where she sat on the curb in the parking lot and listened to him “rant.”
During that time, Journey said she tried to come up with a plan to escape. She was able to get to the park's bathroom, but discovered there wasn’t a lock on the door, so she pretended she just had to go to the bathroom and went back outside.
Christianson then started playing with a box cutter he kept in the car, she testified. At one point, he put his hands on her throat and pressed until she was gasping for breath, she said.
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