SAC CITY - A Storm Lake woman escaped a kidnapping, attempted sexual assault and possible murder Thursday morning when her alleged kidnapper - a 21-year-old Early man who was released from an Iowa prison Tuesday and whose mother was found dead Thursday - lost control of the vehicle he drove on a gravel road west of Early and went into a snow-filled ditch, and a local farmer stopped to help, officials said today.

The victim shouted to the farmer for help from the back seat of the vehicle about 8 a.m., and Kirk Riley Levin, 21, of Early, who allegedly drove the vehicle, ran from the scene, Sac County Sheriff Ken McClure said today.

"The girl that was kidnapped is very lucky to be alive," he said but declined to identify the victim. "We truly believe we saved her life."

Deputies found Levin about 40 minutes later hiding near a barn a few miles northwest of Early. They followed Levin's footprints in the snow and used a dog trained to track people to find him, McClure said. Levin wore pajamas and sneakers.

Levin, who is originally from Wisconsin but has family in the area - including his now-deceased mother, Sac County Attorney Ben Smith said - and has spent time in prison in both states, was incarcerated at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility in southeast Iowa for at least one year for a felony burglary he committed in Early in 2010.

Levin was released from prison Tuesday, said Fred Scaletta, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections. He said the department arranged for transportation for Levin for his release, but was unsure this morning whether a friend or family member gave him a ride or whether the department bought him a bus ticket.

Levin lived for the subsequent days at 2242 Ira Ave., west of Early, with his mother, Smith said during Levin's initial court appearance in Sac City.

Levin apparently posted comments to his online Facebook page Wednesday. One said: "to stay out of prison.....yup. i like it." He also put up his cellphone number for "any one who DOES care."

No voicemail message was set up for that cell number, which the Daily Times Herald called today.

McClure said Levin drove a car registered to Levin's mother to the alleged kidnapping victim's Storm Lake home at 6:30 a.m. Thursday and told her he needed a ride because his car broke down. The two were acquaintances, McClure said, but he could not elaborate on their relationship.

Levin asked her to drive him to his Ira Avenue house, where he told the woman that he wanted to show her something in a barn, McClure said.

Inside the barn, Levin allegedly told the woman that he was kidnapping her and used rope to bind her arms or hands, McClure said. He declined to say whether the attempted sexual assault charge stemmed from physical contact or a verbal threat. The woman suffered a minor scratch on her arm, McClure said.

McClure said Levin tried to put the woman in the trunk of a car but that she resisted, and Levin took her inside his house and bound her feet with tape.

McClure and Smith later stressed that the actual timeline of the alleged kidnapping and assault at the rural Early acreage has yet to be solidified.

Levin allegedly put the victim in the back seat of a car and drove off.

"He was driving too fast on a snow-packed and icy road," McClure said of Levin, when the vehicle he was driving went into a ditch a short time later.

The farmer who approached the vehicle apparently spooked Levin, who fled to a nearby river bed. The victim called her foster father in Buena Vista County, who called police.

The call sparked a manhunt that went on for 30 to 40 minutes with sheriff's deputies, police officers and state patrolmen. McClure said Levin was easy to locate and didn't resist arrest.

Investigators later searched the house at 2242 Ira Ave. and found Levin's dead mother, whom McClure and Smith declined to identify. Investigators have said the woman's death was suspicious, but they declined to elaborate. County records show home's owner is Marilyn Schmitt. McClure confirmed that Schmitt is the surname of Levin's grandparents and an uncle who live in the area.

Levin was charged with felony kidnapping, assault with intent to commit sexual abuse and assault while participating in a felony. The charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and he is being held in Sac County Jail on $20,000 bond.

Smith declined to speculate about charges Levin might face for his mother's death.

He asked a magistrate this morning to increase Levin's bond to $500,000 because of his prior criminal history and that "his only ties to the community was his mother who was found dead."

Levin's defense attorney, Charles Schulte, said Levin's relatives have said they would not post Levin's bond to get him out of jail.

"It makes no difference whether it's $20,000 or $20 million," Schulte said at the court hearing this morning.

Levin's next court hearing is set for Tuesday, in which a judge will determine the bond amount.