WAKE FOREST, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina man whose daughter prosecutes violent crimes was rescued by an elite FBI team after he was kidnapped and terrorized for five days in what authorities described as an act of retaliation involving the Bloods street gang.
Five people were arrested following a late night raid by the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team on an Atlanta apartment.
During the abduction, the kidnappers took a picture of Frank Arthur Janssen tied up in a chair and sent it to his wife, threatening to torture and dismember him if she went to police, according to court documents.
John Strong, the FBI’s agent in charge for North Carolina, said the kidnapping was related to Janssen’s daughter’s prosecution of Kelvin Melton, who is serving a life sentence for ordering the shooting of a man in 2011. Melton, 49, was convicted of being a habitual felon, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.
According to the criminal complaint, Melton had a mobile phone in his prison cell and was in constant contact with the alleged kidnappers. Authorities closed in on the suspects by tracking their cellphones and listening to their calls.
Court documents said a woman knocked on Janssen’s door Saturday at his Wake Forest home in a quiet, upscale, golf course subdivision. Several people assaulted him and someone used a stun gun. He was then driven to Atlanta and his wife, Christie, reported him missing.
On Monday, she started receiving a series of text messages from a phone in Georgia. One of the texts said if law enforcement was contacted, “we will send (Mr. Janssen) back to you in 6 boxes 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.”
The messages made specific ransom demands for the benefit of Melton, an inmate at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, N.C., but the details were not spelled out in the court filings and authorities did not answer questions at a news conference.
A federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation, told The Associated Press that the kidnapping was an act of retaliation and that the communications of those involved suggested a link to the Bloods. The official had been briefed on the investigation.
Court documents from Melton’s 2012 conviction in North Carolina also list his affiliation with the gang. Records show he was prosecuted by Wake County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen.
At 12:19 a.m. Wednesday, Janssen’s wife received a text photograph of him tied up along with a message: “Tomorrow we call you again an if you can not tell me where my things are at tomorrow i will start torchering.”
At 8:20 p.m., a call was placed between Melton and a phone associated with the kidnappers. The two male callers said:
“The first spot we are checking out is close to the house.”
“We want to make sure it’s in a secluded area and the ground is soft so we can go 3 feet deep.”
“Get a bag, put it over his head, and stuff something in his mouth.”
“However you feel like doing it, just do it.”
“Make sure to clean the area up. Don’t leave anything. Don’t leave any DNA behind.”
Following the call, authorities tried to enter Melton’s cell and he temporarily barred the door and smashed the phone. Prison records show Melton had been cited with infractions twice in the last year for possessing phones, most recently on Feb. 24. Prison officials are now investigating whether a staff member might have smuggled in the phone Melton allegedly used to help orchestrate the kidnapping.
A few hours after correction officers forced their way into Melton’s cell, authorities located Janssen in Atlanta at the Forest Cove Apartments, a complex of two-story townhomes.
Charged with kidnapping were: Jenna Paulin Martin; Tiana Maynard; Jevante “Flame” Price; Michael “Hot” Montreal Gooden and Clifton James Roberts.
They appeared Thursday in federal court in Atlanta, where a magistrate judge read the charges against them. They are due back in court for a bond hearing Tuesday, when they will each have a lawyer appointed by the judge.
According to the complaint, the women and Roberts conspired to kidnap Janssen while Price and Gooden were the “night watch” over him.
Outside the Atlanta apartment complex Thursday, several residents described hearing a loud boom that startled them. Two mangled, charred doors lay in a courtyard area in front of one of the townhomes.
The FBI describes its Hostage Rescue Team as a national level counterterrorist unit, offering a tactical option for any extraordinary hostage crisis or other law enforcement situation in the U.S.
In Wake Forest, there was no answer at the Janssen’s door. Authorities said the Janssen family had asked for privacy.
Janssen’s neighbors praised the work of the law enforcement officers.
“I’ve been crying my eyes out,” said Connie O’Sullivan, who lives next door. “I love him to death, and I’ve been praying that nothing bad happened to him.”