An Arkansas man was charged in federal court with kidnapping after allegedly killing his ex-girlfriend in Minnesota, then driving her body to New Orleans and burning it in a shipping container, according to court documents.
Joseph Porter, 25, was charged Friday in U.S. District Court in Minnesota with kidnapping Cristina Prodan, 27, of Edina, who was reported missing by her mother Jan. 5. He is jailed in Little Rock and will make a court appearance before a U.S. magistrate judge at a later date.
According to court documents filed by Arkansas authorities and the FBI, Porter met Prodan on Facebook and had been living with her since last fall. He was arrested by Arkansas State Police last week at the Little Rock residence he shared with his husband and charged with stealing a car in New Orleans.
The evidence spelled out in a felony theft charge filed this week against Porter in Pulaski County, Ark., led law enforcement to believe that it was Prodan’s charred body that was found in a shipping container on Jan. 6, two days after she went missing. Final identification is pending.
Porter’s mother, Arlie Kathryne, said she was grateful to learn Friday that Prodan’s remains were believed found and that “I hope they lock Joe away forever. I’m tired of him being a bully and a manipulator.”
Porter has not been charged with killing Prodan and remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail in Little Rock.
Porter’s husband talks to cops
Charging documents revealed that Porter’s 44-year-old husband, Richard T. Crawford, told investigators that Porter admitted to arguing with Prodan on Jan. 4 and killing her somewhere in Minnesota.
He said Porter took her body to New Orleans, put it in the freight container on Jan. 6, doused it with gasoline and set it on fire. The flames burned Porter on his face, hands and arms, Crawford said.
Porter then showed up at their home in Jacksonville, Ark., a day or so later in a car stolen from a New Orleans towing yard near where Prodan’s body was left. At the request of State Police, New Orleans police inspected the container late Jan. 6 and discovered a burned body presumed to be Prodan’s.
State Police spelled out details of Porter’s violent behavior in the charging document that led authorities to conclude that he killed Prodan.
Prodan’s mother, Livia Prodan, who had been living with her daughter until Porter moved into the apartment last fall, told Edina police that Porter raped her daughter, beat her service dog and killed a puppy in Arkansas, the document said.
Kathryne said Cristina Prodan suffered from epilepsy, which made her more vulnerable to Porter’s abuse. She told the Star Tribune in an interview that one beating from Porter caused Prodan to miscarry.
After leaving Minnesota, Porter was pulled over by law enforcement in Missouri late on Jan. 4 and again in Arkansas shortly after 1 a.m. on Jan. 5. He appeared to be alone, a shovel and pick ax in a passenger seat and two suitcases in the car, the document said.
‘A master manipulator’
Porter’s mother told Edina police a few weeks earlier that her son intended to kidnap Cristina Prodan, empty her bank accounts and safe deposit box, and take her where no one could find her again.
The State Police and FBI located video surveillance from a Walmart near the men’s home showing Porter and Crawford at the store on Jan. 9. A cellphone matching Prodan’s brand and model was pawned at that store.
A search of Porter and Crawford’s home and the stolen car outside revealed several items belonging to Cristina Prodan, including jewelry, clothing and a cellphone.
Given the multistate nature of Porter’s alleged actions, federal authorities now have the case, according to Edina police.
Porter’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 2. His attorney, Peggy Egan, did not return calls seeking comment on the allegations.
Kathryne said Friday she hopes her son admits to killing Prodan but doubts he will.
“He’s a master manipulator, and he will try anything” to avoid going to prison, she said. “He’ll say he didn’t do it or say he is bipolar.”