Boston Woman Got Kidnapped Her First Day In Wyoming, But Built A Life Here Anyway

A Massachusetts woman who moved to Wyoming last May was kidnapped her first day in the state. She escaped her attacker, reported the incident to police, got a job on a ranch and fell in love with Wyoming anyway.

Clair McFarland

April 13, 20247 min read

Janelle Gibson didn't let getting kidnapped her first day in Wyoming stop her from building a life here.
Janelle Gibson didn't let getting kidnapped her first day in Wyoming stop her from building a life here. ((Photo Courtesy Janelle Gibson))

A Boston-area woman who came to Wyoming to work on a ranch last May was kidnapped the day she got to the state. 

But despite that traumatic experience and thanks to some good riding buddies, a good horse and a good Wyoming man, she chose to build a life here anyway.  

Janelle Gibson was 24 when she drove from Massachusetts last May to work on a guest ranch outside Buffalo, Wyoming.

She brought her younger brother, Jake, along for the ride, but dropped him off at the Gillette airport in the early morning hours of May 19, 2023 — after 32 hours on the road. She grabbed a couple hours’ rest in her car, then pulled into Gillette’s Walmart parking lot and waited for the store to open. 

At 6 a.m., the store was almost a ghost town.

Gibson walked in to do her morning shopping. She held her phone out so she could view her shopping list on the screen. She then slipped her phone into her pocket to unfold a bath towel. 

“I need to tell you something,” said a man in his mid-to-late-20s, who approached her suddenly.

“What?” asked Gibson.

The man, later identified as then-26-year-old Alex Sigvaldsen, said Gibson was going home with him, or his friends with automatic weapons would storm in and shoot up the place. He held out his phone with a finger on the screen, as if he were about to send the fatal message.

“Please not me,” said Gibson.

“You’re going to live; I’ll let you go at the end of the day,” Sigvaldsen said, according to court documents in the case.

He smelled “gross,” Gibson recalled in a Monday interview with Cowboy State Daily.

“He was dirty and not appealing at all,” she said.

Gibson told Sigvaldsen she needed to pay for her things. She stalled.

He walked along with her, telling her to act like they were a normal couple.

“Help me,” Gibson mouthed to another woman in the store.

Reflecting on that, Gibson said she feels the other woman understood and told Walmart employees there was a concern. But she now wishes the woman or Walmart employees had called 911 immediately instead of simply monitoring the situation for red flags.

Sigvaldsen kept a hand on Gibson’s back as she paid for her things.

She asked if she could pay him instead of going with him.

“What?” he asked, then pulled her close and kissed her on the lips, says the case affidavit.

After Gibson bought her things, Sigvaldsen walked with her out to her car. He told her she was going to drive them to his house.

Gibson hit the unlock button on her key fob just one time, hoping it would only unlock the driver’s side door.

It did.

She got into the driver’s seat and sped off, driving directly to the Gillette Police Department.

When police later reviewed Walmart surveillance footage, they saw Sigvaldsen struggling to get into the passenger side door. 

‘If A Cop Shows Up…’

Gibson traveled on to the ranch outside Buffalo to which she’d been headed originally, to start her new job. 

Gillette investigators had told her that if they couldn’t reach her by phone due to the spotty service, they’d send an agent out to the ranch to meet her if they needed more information. 

When she arrived at the ranch and got out of her car, a male ranch hand gave her directions to the office.

“I wasn’t excited to be seeing any man, honestly,” said Gibson. 

She did not then realize that she’d later fall in love with that ranch hand, and he’d redeem her temporarily bleak view of Wyoming men. 

Gibson walked into the business and gave an awkward introduction.  

“Hi,” she began, introducing herself. “If a cop shows up looking for me, it’s because I was kidnapped.”

And Gibson explained to her new employer what she’d gone through that morning.

“They were very understanding,” she recalled Monday.


Other seasonal workers converged on the guest ranch, and Gibson made good friends there.

Anxiety didn’t strike her until months after the Gillette incident. The surreal became real with waves of panic.  

Gibson’s friends reminded her she was in a safe place, she wasn’t alone, and she wasn’t in danger, she said.

She’s mostly recovered from the incident now, though she doesn’t go places alone if she can help it – and she shares her location with a couple people who care about her when she does.

Horses are a gift too, Gibson said. She’s got her favorite horse, a mustang named Duke, to carry her down the trail.

“I’ve been able to kind of ride my feelings away,” she said. 

The Long Year

Now 25, Gibson has been monitoring Sigvaldsen’s criminal case via occasional updates from the prosecutor’s office, she said.

Sigvaldsen pleaded guilty March 21, to felony kidnapping and a misdemeanor police interference charge stemming from a later altercation he had with police while intoxicated. 

His change of plea followed a March 20 plea agreement in which Sigvaldsen agreed to plead guilty to those two counts in exchange for the dismissal of unlawful contact and drug use charges.

Campbell County Attorney Nathan Henkes plans to argue for between nine and 10 years in prison on the kidnapping charge, with lesser penalties for the interference charge and a probation violation to run concurrently, or simultaneously, to the potential decade in prison.

Sigvaldsen reserves the right to argue for a lesser sentence, according to his plea agreement.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced in Campbell County District Court on June 10.

Gibson said she welcomed the guilty pleas.

“It was such a huge relief to just finally be done with it and not have to worry about it,” she said Monday. “It’s such a process.”

Someone Asking For Help

Gibson now wonders if Sigvaldsen didn’t approach her earlier that morning because she had her phone out and ready as she shopped.

As soon as she put her phone in her pocket, he approached.

“Don’t you dare look at your phone again,” Sigvaldsen said, according to Gibson’s recollection.

Gibson saw the woman to whom she’d mouthed the words “help me” talking to Walmart employees. She’s not sure if anyone called 911, but it appeared onlookers may have been merely monitoring the situation, she said.

“My advice to other people (is), if you see somebody who looks like they’re asking for help, call the police immediately,” Gibson said.

Wyoming Strong

Gibson took to life on the guest ranch. Though the ranch normally hires seasonal workers, she has managed to “worm” her way into a year-round position and a little ranch apartment of her own, she said.

And she loves it.

Gibson grew up in an urban area just outside Boston, but she frequented English riding facilities and took on horseback riding as her sport.

Now her sport is her job, which she calls a stroke of good fortune.

Gibson said she’s excited for her friends, the other seasonal workers, to return to the ranch this summer.

The good horses, good friends and scenic trails are her Wyoming now, she said.

“I’ve always dreamed of coming out West and seeing what that life was like,” said Gibson. “I fell in love with it as soon as I got out here.”

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter