CRIME

EXCLUSIVE: Man takes woman hostage on flight to SLC, Good Samaritan steps in

Nov 24, 2022, 3:14 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2024, 3:41 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A Provo man is recounting an unnerving assault on a flight to Salt Lake City where a Syracuse man is accused of taking a woman hostage with a razor and making bizarre demands to the whole plane.

That man, identified as 41-year-old Merrill Fackrell, is now facing federal charges.

Abraham Neiderhauser was headed home after a five-month dream trip around Europe, with the home stretch being a flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Salt Lake City International Airport Monday.

Around two hours from landing in Salt Lake, Neiderhauser heard a man start shouting two rows in front of him.

“He’s grabbing the woman next to him, he has something in his hand,” Neiderhauser recounted. “He says, ‘Don’t worry, she’s going to be fine. She’s going to be fine,’ and it was kind of a weird thing and kind of ominous, too, the way he was grabbing her. And it’s like, what is that? Is that like a weapon or something?”

He would later find out Fackrell was allegedly holding a straight-edge razor up to the woman’s throat.

“He’s like, ‘This ain’t no 9/11 sh**,'” Neiderhauser said. “He’s like, ‘Just land the plane, and everyone will be fine.’ We didn’t understand why he wanted the plane landed.”

Meanwhile, the woman began to struggle, and Neiderhauser said the man was grabbing her. She eventually managed to break free and escaped to another part of the plane.

“Everyone was really scared. The area around where him and Rob were kind of engaging just cleared out, it’s like the whole front section of the plane was empty. All the airline crew was gone,” Neiderhauser said. “For this period of like, I don’t know how long it was, 30 minutes, everyone’s just kind of in suspense at what’s going to happen. Rob was very brave, you know, engaging like this.”

Eventually, Neiderhauser said Rob got the man to calm down and give up his weapon. Rob then sat next to the man for the duration of the flight until they landed and police came on board to take Fackrell into custody.

Neiderhauser took video of police hauling Fackrell off the plane and Fackrell gets in one last word, telling everyone, “Peace out.”

Rob is seen sitting back down in his seat.

“You could kind of feel the whole plane breathe this collective sigh of relief,” Neiderhauser said, later adding, “after he left, everyone clapped for Rob because they were really grateful for him. I think for a lot of people, it was really traumatic.”

Utahn charged with assault after allegedly holding blade to woman’s throat on flight

According to a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah, Fackrell was sitting in a window seat next to the woman as she traveled with her husband. Fackrell was talking to the woman, the complaint said, and had several alcoholic drinks.

Eventually, she put headphones on to watch a movie. It was at that point, the complaint alleges, that Fackrell told the woman to pause her movie, and she realized he was holding what looked to be a knife inches from her throat.

The complaint says Fackrell told the husband to “get the (expletive) out of here,” and the husband ran to the front of the plane to get help from a flight attendant. The rest of what Neiderhauser recounted ensued.

The knife-like object turned out to be a Facón wood-handled straight-edge razor with a one-to-two-inch blade, according to the FBI.

Fackrell has been federally charged with carrying a weapon on an aircraft and assault with a dangerous weapon in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States.

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EXCLUSIVE: Man takes woman hostage on flight to SLC, Good Samaritan steps in