ELKHART, Ind. -- A man accused of abducting his ex-girlfriend and their four children allowed her to call her family during the ordeal, and she used a code word to let relatives know she was in danger, police said. The ex-boyfriend, Jerry White, is accused of bursting into Kimberly Walker's home Saturday, shooting one man and kidnapping Walker and the children, ages 16 months to 9 years old. On Tuesday, police found the family safe at a motel near Walker's home and arrested White. White had been convicted of attacking Walker in the past, so when Walker contacted relatives, they knew by a code word established before the abduction that she was not all right. "When she didn't respond properly, we knew this wasn't something she was willingly doing," Detective Sgt. Bill Wargo said Wednesday.
Wargo would not say when the family established the code or how long it had been in use. But records show White and Walker had a troubled past.
In August 2004, White was sentenced to 18 months in prison in Illinois after being convicted of attacking Walker, said Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County State's Attorney's office.
A witness said White grabbed Walker at a bus stop in Chicago, hit her, tied her hands and forced her inside a van, where he choked her. White was convicted of felony domestic battery.
White also had been convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery in July 1999 and was sentenced to 10 days in jail. He did numerous other jail stints for violating the conditions of his release, records show.
Walker moved to Elkhart in October, and police were called to her home nine times before Saturday's shooting. Authorities declined to release details, saying the information was part of their ongoing investigation.
Police said White had been harassing Walker in recent days. On Friday, he allegedly confined Walker in her car before releasing her and stealing the vehicle.
The next day, police said, he broke into Walker's house and shot her sister's boyfriend, Lathie Turnage, in the face and chest and held everyone captive until leaving with Walker and the children nearly 10 hours later.
Turnage was in critical condition Wednesday and was expected to be transferred to a Chicago hospital for surgery.
"He's going to have a long recovery ahead of him. But he is expected to survive," Wargo said.
Pamela Walker said she talked with her sister before she left with White about doing whatever she needed to stay alive -- and that meant getting along with him.
"She had to stay like she was his friend, to be his friend, like she's with him," she said.
The approach worked. Walker and her children were rescued at the motel Tuesday night. Police caught White trying to escape through an air duct.
He was arrested on a warrant charging him with attempted murder and several counts of confinement. He is scheduled to make a court appearance Thursday.
Associated Press Writer Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this story.