- Nine people face charges in kidnapping of Frank Janssen, a prosecutor's father
- Kelvin Melton allegedly masterminded plot from jail, as revenge for his prosecution
- Indictment: Botched Internet search led kidnappers to wrong house in North Carolina
- Janssen rescued after Melton allegedly told kidnappers to kill him, documents say
A multistate kidnapping targeting a North Carolina prosecutor turns out to be a complicated web of mistaken identity and intrigue, court documents show.
Nine people stand accused of participating in a conspiracy to kidnap a Wake County assistant district attorney who had prosecuted Kelvin Melton in 2012.
But one of the suspects bungled an Internet search and came up with an address for her father, 63-year-old Frank Janssen, who was kidnapped earlier this month and abused before being rescued from an Atlanta apartment five days later.
The plot seemingly begins and ends with Melton, according to a federal indictment handed down from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina on Tuesday.
After a jury convicted Melton of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina. It was there, federal documents say, that Melton obtained a cell phone and contacted Patricia Kramer and Tianna Maynard, accused of orchestrating the scheme.
Melton instructed Maynard and Kramer to "assemble a team to travel to North Carolina and kidnap the (assistant district attorney)," the indictment says.
"Maynard used the Internet to research what she thought was the address of the ADA," federal documents say. "Unbeknownst to Maynard, she had actually found the address of the ADA's father."
Melton oversaw the four-member kidnapping team with a heavy hand, documents say, even instructing each person on their specific role during the abduction and advising them to wear khakis and collared shirts.
On April 5, the team left Georgia and arrived at Janssen's home in Wake Forest.
One kidnapper stayed with the car. Two more, armed with a handgun and stun gun, lay in wait, while the fourth knocked on the door with a clipboard in hand, according to the indictment.
When Janssen opened the door, the assailants "forced their way into the house and abducted him," the indictment reads. Janssen was shocked with the stun gun, pistol-whipped, then restrained and forced into the car for the drive back to Georgia.
The ride was not pleasant.
"The ADA's father was forced to remain lying on the backseat floorboard and a blanket was put over his body," the indictment says. Kidnapping suspects Quantavious Thompson and Jakym Tibbs "also restrained the victim with handcuffs, pistol whipped him, and used the stun gun on him dozens of times."
Janssen would remain held against his will at an apartment complex in Atlanta, taped to a chair inside a closet, for the next several days, the indictment says.
On April 7, Melton dictated text messages to one of his accomplices to send to Janssen's wife, according to court documents.
"We will send him back to you in 6 boxes, and every chance we get we will take someone in you [sic] family to italy [sic] and torture them and kill them, we will do a drive by and gun down anybody in you [sic] family and we will throw grenades in you [sic] window," read one text, according to the indictment.
The messages ordered that "various demands benefiting Melton must be satisfied," the document said, and warned that harm would come to more family members and the prosecutor herself if "cooperation was not forthcoming."
A photo of Janssen, tied to a chair in a closet, was sent to Janssen's wife two days later, along with another text: "Tomorrow we call you again an [sic] if you can not tell me where my things are at tomorrow i will start torchering [sic]."
The kidnappers did not know the authorities were by then aware that Melton was allegedly masterminding the abduction from his jail cell and that the FBI was already watching two homes in Georgia where members of the plot were staying.
That evening, Melton received a chilling text message, court documents show: "we got car, spot, and shovel."
After Melton allegedly exchanged texts with his co-conspirators ordering them to kill Janssen, bury him and cover up the crime, authorities moved in, the documents say.
Just before midnight, the FBI rescued Janssen, and by the next morning, most members of the kidnapping plot were in custody.
On Wednesday, Kramer, the only member of the conspiracy who wasn't in custody when the indictment was filed Tuesday, surrendered to the FBI in Atlanta and had a first appearance in court.
Kramer, Melton, Thompson, Maynard, Jakym Tibbs, Clifton Roberts, Jenna Martin, Michael Gooden and Jevante Price each face several counts, including a federal conspiracy kidnapping charge. None has entered a plea.