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QUICK THINKING LEADS TO ARREST AFTER PHONE HARASSMENT

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A man being investigated in dozens of phone harassments was arrested when the latest victim was not fooled by the claim that her 14-year-old daughter had been kidnapped.

Gayle Ball got a call from a man who said he had kidnapped her daughter. The man told the mother to take off her clothes and touch herself while repeating sexual phrases."I was sickened by it and absolutely terrified. My mind went blank. I couldn't think," she said. "I truly thought that I would be killed or my daughter would be killed."

While she kept the man on the line, Ball had one of her children use a second telephone to call her daughter's school. The girl, who was at the school, called the Salt Lake County sheriff's office.

Sandy salesman Michael John Thomas, 41, was arrested and charged Wednesday with nine counts of misdemeanor telephone harassment.

Deputy Bob Odor said Thomas is a parolee with prison records in California and Utah for rape, child abduction, child molestation, sodomy of a child and aggravated assault. Odor said Thomas will be returned to California to complete his prison term. If paroled again, he could be returned to Utah to be tried on the harassment charges.

Odor said investigators have heard from at least 40 victims, and as many as 150 Salt Lake County women may have been called.

In several cases, the women were asked to go to a nearby church, where they would find a list of things to do, including disrobing, and a script of things to say.

"I don't think he saw any of the women naked . . . he's just some kind of control freak," Odor said. "But he did a lot of background checking on his victims. He was convincing and there were a lot of women who did just exactly what he told them to do."