June 4, 2009— -- Police in North Carolina are hunting for a man they believe raped a woman at knifepoint. The assailant, police say, was hired by the woman's husband through Craigslist to feed his sexual fantasy.
"She was definitely not a willing participant," Kannapolis Police Capt. Chuck Adams told ABCNews.com today. "The children were in a bedroom across the hallway, maybe 15 to 20 feet away."
Adams said the woman's husband Travis -- ABCNews.com is withholding his last name to protect his wife's identity because she is a sex crime victim -- responded to two Craigslist sex advertisements asking if the men would be willing to rape his wife, Adams said.
Travis, 25, has been charged with first-degree rape, two counts of first-degree sexual offense and attempted first-degree sexual offense. Adams said that even though Travis did not rape his wife, the laws allow for him to be charged with the crime for allegedly soliciting someone else to carry it out.
The Craigslist ads, Adams said, did not advertise rape-for-hire, but one of the men agreed.
Adams said the advertisements, listed in Craigslist's oft-criticized "adult services" section were "very lewd." Adams declined to detail specifics of Travis' solicitation, but said he requested the would-be rapist to "come in in a way that would use a scare tactic."
"We believe it was part of a fantasy he had," Adams said.
In the early morning hours of May 31, Adams said, the hired assailant woke the 28-year-old mother of two and raped her at knifepoint while Travis watched. She called 911 around 2:34 a.m.
Now police are closing in on their rape suspect. Adams said that with the help of the Charlotte division of Secret Service computer experts, they have a "good lead" on a suspect who lives in the area.
Adams said that other than the emotional trauma of knowing her husband solicited her rape, the woman suffered no physical injuries. Though the rapist threatened to cut her with the knife, he never did, Adams said. The woman was treated and released from an area hospital after a forensic exam.
The woman, when reached by phone at her home, declined to comment, saying "I'm not talking to anybody."
Travis, who was employed by a Charlotte-based construction company, is being held at the Cabarrus County Detention Center in Concord, N.C., on a $200,000 bond. Court records do not list an attorney. He is next due in court June 30.
Adams said the couple's children, ages 1 and 4, were asleep at the time of the attack and there is no indication they knew anything was wrong until police showed up. The children are in their mother's custody.
Latest Craigslist Controversy
Travis' alleged rape-for-hire is the latest black mark against Craigslist, one of the world's most popular online collection of classified advertisements.
In the wake of the arrest of Boston med student Philip Markoff for the alleged murder of a woman he met through a Craigslist advertisement, the site agreed to better monitor sex-related ads and change it's "erotic services" category to "adult services."
Markoff, dubbed the so-called "Craigslist Killer," has also been accused of robbing two other women he met through sex ads on Craigslist, one in Boston and one in Rhode Island.
With pressure from as many as 40 state attorneys general, Craigslist also agreed to ban nude or graphic images, but a quick scan of the Charlotte-area listings shows several such listings as well as hourly rates for sexual services.
Jennifer Wilson, program director for Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network's National Sexual Assault Hotline told ABCNews.com that she had never heard of a case where a husband hired someone to rape his wife.
Wilson said consent means the difference between fantasy and crime.
"Getting married does not mean you are consenting to any type of sex for the rest of your life," she said.
Being raped by a spouse or intimate partner, she said, can have serious psychological effects for a woman who enterered marriage with feelings of love and trust.
"When that trust is violated, I think that has some very serious implications," she said.
Women who are raped by their spouses tend to have severe feelings of isolation and depression and tend to be less likely to get help, simply based on their relationship with the attacker.
For more information or for help dealing with sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE.