Thomas James Lucero

Thomas James Lucero, 28, appears Wednesday via video in Gallatin County Justice Court.

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Bail was set at $250,000 Wednesday for a Billings man accused of physically and sexually assaulting his girlfriend at her home in Helena and using a knife to force her to drive him to Billings, threatening to kill her if she tried to escape along the way.

Thomas James Lucero, 28, was arrested along Interstate 90 Tuesday and charged with felony aggravated kidnapping and assault with a weapon.

He appeared via video in Gallatin County Justice Court on Wednesday before Judge Rick West.

According to charging documents:

The woman said she went to bed Monday in Helena, while Lucero stayed up drinking beer and tequila. At about 2 a.m. Tuesday, she said she confronted Lucero about playing loud music.

Lucero got angry, she said, and began to assault her and slashed at her with a knife. The woman said Lucero then sexually assaulted her, and, at times, held the knife to her throat and threatened to kill her.

The woman said the assault went on until her alarm went off at 7:30 a.m.

She said Lucero told her that she was going to drive him to Billings, and forced her to her car with the knife. The two got in the car and headed toward Broadwater County.

The woman said Lucero fell asleep around Townsend but would wake up when the car slowed and threatened to kill her if she tried to escape.

The woman said she intentionally swerved toward traffic in the opposite direction, flashing the car’s lights and hoping someone would notify law enforcement.

The Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office was advised of a reckless driver and asked the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office to help stop the car. Around 9:30 a.m., a Gallatin County deputy spotted the woman’s car on U.S. Highway 287 but was unable to stop it.

The woman turned on to Interstate 90 heading east. Deputies chased the car for about 10 miles before using a spike strip to blow its tires out. When the car stopped, the woman got out and ran to law enforcement officers.

The woman said she didn’t stop because she believed one officer would not be enough to protect her. She said if she stopped sooner Lucero would have stabbed her before law enforcement was able to help.

A Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputy spoke with the woman at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. The woman had cuts on her hands and arms and bruises on her head.

Lucero admitted to deputies that he fought with the woman, wielded a knife and made her drive him to Billings. Lucero had bloodstains on his pants and shoes.

At the woman’s home, Helena Police detectives found bloodstains that were consistent with the woman’s story.

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Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2630. Follow him on Twitter @TGIFreddy.

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