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New Jersey kidnapping suspect allegedly con man who held hiker hostage years ago, preyed on women for decades

New Jersey kidnapping suspect James Parrillo, arrested after a woman's daring on camera escape to a gas station, is also accused of holding Pacific Crest Trail hiker Kira Moon hostage.

James Parrillo, charged with kidnapping in New Jersey after the woman authorities say he dragged across the country and held captive for nearly a year escaped to a gas station, is a skilled con man who’s been using different aliases to prey on vulnerable victims for decades, sources tell Fox News Digital. 

Facebook groups including "Missing on the Pacific Crest Trail" have been sounding the alarm about Parrillo for years after the months-long kidnapping and alleged repeated rape of a transgender California woman named Kira Moon in 2018. 

Author Andrea Lankford, who features allegations of Parrillo’s disturbing cons in a chapter of her upcoming book, "Trail of the Lost," tells Fox News Digital that the man often will "fake an illness for sympathy," claiming to have cancer or be mute from his time in the Navy, or Army or Marines – whichever false persona – to lure in vulnerable women during his travels. 

"He is charming," Lankford told Fox News Digital. "He arouses people's compassion, especially for a woman, and then he arouses her romantic desires, and then they get sucked in, and then he switches, and the mask comes off, and he becomes evil and abusive and mean and controlling." 


Moon’s sister, Kat Marchington, detailed to Fox News Digital how Moon, a then-62-year-old from the San Francisco Bay Area who had traveled all over the world, decided to embark on the Pacific Crest Trail after recovering from a back injury. Marchington admitted that despite training, her sister was "woefully unprepared for the reality" of the 2,650-mile trail backpackers take from Mexico up to Canada. 

Parrillo, going by the name "Jay Cerilo," or his trail nickname "Medic," claimed to fellow hikers that he was a millionaire veteran with cancer traveling while waiting for his mansions to clear escrow. Moon and Parrillo met about a month into her journey, but the pair never made it past the San Luis Obispo area. 

"He held my sister at an abandoned ranger station for four months," Marchington told Fox News Digital, saying Moon was held captive somewhere in Monterey County. "Very similar to this woman in New Jersey. Very similar in even in how she escaped him. It's just the two stories are almost parallel." 

"He wouldn't leave her out of his sight. And he had been beating, raping her repeatedly. And so, she changed her tactic to kind of say, ‘I'm on your side. I'm with you,’" Marchington said. "So, he would make her go with him down into town to get supplies to go to the store. And apparently, after several weeks of gaining his trust, she got him to leave her with the backpacks." 

"She waited until he went into the store, and then she just bolted and ran into luckily, an urgent care clinic in a strip mall and announced she'd been kidnapped," the sister recalled. "And they locked her in and called the police, and they arrested him as he came out of the store." 

A beaten and emaciated Moon was taken to an emergency room where X-Rays showed she had four broken ribs, according to Marchington. Parrillo was reportedly extradited back to Santa Barbara County on a failure to appear warrant. But despite Marchington claiming medical records showed Moon was assaulted, Parrillo was only said to be held in jail for 11 days and then released. Fox News Digital left a voicemail for an assistant prosecutor at the Santa Barbara District Attorney's Office early Tuesday but did not hear back before publication.

"We were really blown off by authorities," Marchington said. "We were told, ‘Well, it's her word against his. And basically, you got her back.' You know, she was poor, and she was trans. She was not seen as a sympathetic witness. They didn't think they could get a conviction based on her."

Parrillo was arrested in the New Jersey case this year on Feb. 7, which Marchington told Fox News Digital is the same date Moon died in an electrical fire in 2019 at a California mobile home. Marchington said both she and the partner of Moon’s son have contacted New Jersey State Police. Parrillo was never previously prosecuted over Moon’s allegations. 

At a press conference Tuesday, the New Jersey State Police said it was fielding tips from "across the country" regarding Parrillo's activities, asking anyone with information to call the "completely anonymous tipline" 855-363-6548. Asked if Parrillo had any priors, a state police official said flatly, "That I do not know."

Reached by Fox News Digital Tuesday, Parrillo's public defender, Anthony Rizzo, said he had no comment, including regarding the Kira Moon case. 


During his initial detention hearing, an assistant prosecutor for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office warned that "public safety demands" Parrillo not be released while awaiting trial, noting how information "found on social media and other online sites indicate that Parrillo may have engaged in similar predatory conduct with individuals in other states."

Asked about Moon’s case and Parrillo’s criminal history, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office told Fox News Digital by email Monday, "This an ongoing criminal matter, and we have no further comment at this time." 

The woman in the New Jersey case has not been named by authorities.

But prosecutors say she met Parrillo, who went by the name "Brett Parker," at a gas station in New Mexico in February 2022 and agreed to give him a ride to Arizona. The two began a consensual relationship, but about a month in, Parrillo allegedly assaulted her in California, confiscating her phone and using her debit cards. She was held against her will and dragged cross-country from the border states to New Jersey. Parrillo began beating and choking her during an argument on Feb. 7. The woman somehow made a mad dash from the home wearing just shorts and a shirt in 42-degree weather, and security camera footage shows her rush into a gas station, bolt the door shut and alert the attendant. 

Parrillo’s predation might stretch back to the late 90s, starting with the case of Valerie Earick, according to Lankford's research and online hiking groups. 

Earick, a single mother in her 30s at the time, first met a man believed to be Parrillo while working as a clerk at a truck stop in Ocala, Florida, in December 1993. He introduced himself as Anthony "Tony" Angelo DeCompo, exchanging notes with the woman claiming that he was a young millionaire and former Navy SEAL rendered deaf and mute since the Persian Gulf War, according to 1994 article in the Daily Press. For the next three months, he’d allegedly drag her across Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. 

After being severely beaten and allegedly forced into demeaning sex acts, Earick said she managed to escape the Birmingham, Alabama, hotel room they shared and race to the front desk. A bellman would usher her to a hotel courtesy van, where she lay on the floor and was driven to a nearby police station. 

Her alleged captor came downstairs to the lobby and asked staff if they had seen her, but the bellman recalled how, "We lied through our teeth and said ‘No.’ It was obvious to us something was wrong. I told everybody to play dumb." Police arrived, but the man "just vanished into thin air," the bellman said. 

In the article titled, "She’s searching for Mr. Wrong," the woman recounted to the paper how she initially sat with the man for hours at the Florida truck stop as he claimed his vehicle broke down and that he was waiting for a wire transfer. Taking pity on him, she offered him a place to stay the night. 

"He was a man in need," Earick told the paper. "My big heart, I just wanted to help."

Her goal was to warn other women of the alleged conman. 


"Everybody's telling me to forget about it and go on with my life," the woman said in 1994. "But I want him caught. What he did to me, I couldn't live with him doing to someone else."

Within hours, the man, who many believe from photos to be a young Parrillo, wrote to Earick on a note, "Will you marry me?" Earick recalled to the newspaper how the man tripped and hit his head just days later, claiming that his ability to speak and hear was miraculously repaired after a visit to the hospital. 

The woman believes "DeCompo" was secretly drugging her with prescribed anxiety meds at the time. He soon convinced her, her mother and her two young children they needed to flee because "the Mafia was out to get him." At the start of their journey, they paid a visit to an investment bank in Ocala. 

The broker who met with the couple detailed to the newspaper how "DeCompo" had portrayed himself as an investor with a $2.4 million portfolio wanting to open a trust for his soon-to-be bride. Yet, when they left, the broker realized the man provided a phony social security number and address. No money was exchanged. 

"DeCompo" relied on Earick’s mother’s ATM cards, but when her husband reported them missing and the cards were canceled, the alleged conman dumped her and the kids at Tampa airport. The man threatened Earick that he’d have the children killed if she didn’t stay with him alone. More than three months dragged on until Earick would escape his grasp in Alabama. 

An online obituary says Earick passed away in February 2013 at age 51. 

Just months after Earick’s ordeal, a July 1994 article in Orlando Sun Sentinel detailed how a 28-year-old "James Parrillo," allegedly held nine captives at gunpoint aboard a $17 million yacht in Fort Lauderdale. Describing Parrillo as "an ex-convict and drifter from New Jersey," the article says how the man was evading police when he swam up to and climbed aboard the 115-foot vessel near the Bahia Mar hotel. 

Hours of hostage negotiations would pass until Parrillo was brought into custody by a SWAT team and charged with armed burglary, false imprisonment, attempted murder of a police officer and aggravated assault with a firearm. Parrillo was acquitted on those charges in August 1995, according to court documents viewed by Fox News Digital. 

Initially claiming to be a former Navy SEAL, Parrillo later admitted that was a lie. 

Though he was in the Navy at some point, he told the Sun Sentinel in an interview from behind bars that he "got thrown out because I didn't tell them I had a conviction for assault." He also claimed to have taken drugs to attempt to kill himself at the time he took the yacht captain and crew hostage. 

Court documents reviewed by Fox News Digital show Parrillo was sentenced in July 1998 to 20 months in prison and three years of supervised release on federal conviction in Virginia of threatening then-President Bill Clinton. He was hauled back into custody several times for violating the terms of release. 

Parrillo did time in the early 2000s for allegedly plotting with a Los Angeles woman named Laura Michele Lyde to kidnap her children away from their father, Backpacker reported in 2019. 

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