The suspects accused of abducting a North Carolina man for ransom sent his wife chilling text messages that they would dismember him and send his body to her “in 6 boxes” if she contacted cops, authorities said.
Some of the grisly threats were detailed in an affidavit released Thursday, a day after FBI agents rescued Frank Arthur Janssen, 63, from an Atlanta apartment complex.
Five people were arrested on federal kidnapping charges in the case, officials said during a news conference. They’re expected to appear in U.S. District Court Thursday afternoon.
The suspects were allegedly working on behalf of Kelvin Melton, a North Carolina inmate serving a life sentence after Janssen’s daughter helped to prosecute an attempted murder case against him in 2011.
Prison didn’t stop Melton, 49, from allegedly spinning an “elaborate” retaliation plot against the Janssen family.The FBI said he had a cellphone in jail, and used it to collaborate with his cohorts on the outside.
The family’s nightmare began Saturday, when a woman knocked on their Wake Forest home located in an upscale golf course community.
“When Janssen opened the door he was assaulted by several individuals who tazed and subdued him,” according to court documents. “The individuals then forcefully removed Janssen from his home and placed him into a vehicle.”
The group drove Janssen to Atlanta. Two days later, Janssen’s wife received a string of texts from an unknown number out of Georgia. The texts said Janssen had been kidnapped and would be thrown in a trunk and driven to California.
The sender said that if police were called, Janssen would be killed, and “every chance we get we will take someone in your family to Italy and torture them and kill them … we will do drive by and gun down anybody,” and “throw a grenade in your window.”
Certain demands were made, although FBI officials declined to divulge them.
On Wednesday, Janssen’s wife received another text message at 12:19 a.m. The message included a picture of Janssen tied to a chair.
“Tomorrow we will call you again [and] if you can not tell me where my things are at tomorrow I will start torchering [sic],” the message said.
Janssen’s wife had already gotten the police involved. They were able to connect those cellphone numbers to other messages being sent to a cellphone transmitting from inside the Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C., where Melton is incarcerated.
Investigators were able to tie that prison number to calls being made to phones owned by Melton’s daughters.
Although Janssen had still not been located, the FBI tapped into a call between the cellphone from the prison and another number on Wednesday night. Two male callers were heard on the line.
“Get a bag, put it over his head, and stuff something in his mouth,” one person said, alluding to killing someone.
The callers also spoke about digging a hole 3 feet deep, making the victim drink a bottle of Nyquil and using bleach to clean up the walls.
“Make sure to clean the area up,” one of the callers said. “Don’t leave anything behind. Don’t leave any DNA behind.”
Authorities later raided Melton’s prison cell, where he attempted to smash his phone, according to officials.
As the plot unraveled, investigators said, they determined Janssen was being held at an apartment on Atlanta’s New Town Circle.
“Every chance we get we will take someone in your family to Italy and torture them and kill them ... ”
The FBI’s hostage and SWAT teams helped to rescue Janssen late Wednesday. He remained under medical supervision and was reunited with his family Thursday.
The five people charged in the kidnapping were identified as: Jenna Paulin Martin, 21; Tiana Maynard, 20; Jevante Price, 20; Michael Montreal Gooden, 21; and Clifton James Roberts, 19.
They face up to life in prison without parole if convicted.
Melton, meanwhile, is listed as a violent habitual felon, and has incurred six infractions in prison, including for weapon possession, since 2013, records show.
John Strong, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Charlotte division, told reporters Thursday that law enforcement was lucky to have found Janssen alive.
“We can only imagine the uncertainty, confusion and fear [he experienced],” Strong said.