Frank Arthur Janssen was taken from his home in Wake Forest, N.C., on April 5 and rescued five days later when FBI agents raided an Atlanta apartment.
Prosecutor Ryan Buchanan said the five suspects were accused of participating in an elaborate and dangerous scheme spanning at least two states and specifically targeted the justice system. None of them should get bond because they were a flight risk and a danger to the community, he said.
Authorities 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.
Melton had a phone in his prison cell and was in constant contact with the accused kidnappers, according to a court filing. He also faces a federal kidnapping charge in the abduction. Authorities have said he is a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang from New York City.
Messages from the kidnappers threatened to torture and dismember Janssen if their demands weren’t met, but those specific demands still have not been released by authorities.
Denied bond were: Jenna Paulin Martin, 21; Tiana Maynard, 30; Jevante “Flame” Price, 20; Michael “Hot” Montreal Gooden, 21; and Clifton James Roberts, 29.
All five were arrested following a late-night raid April 9.
Buchanan, the prosecutor, did not specify how the five suspects know each other or what their connection is to Melton. He also did not provide any more information about the people authorities were still looking for.
An attorney for Maynard, Elizabeth Rogan, said her client was involved against her will and unnamed suspects were threatening to harm her four children. But the prosecutor said a phone in Maynard’s possession when she was arrested had nearly 100 text messages and phone calls with Melton during the time when Janssen was being held. She was also among the people who went to North Carolina to abduct Janssen, Buchanan said.
Rogan said her client wanted the judge to know two other defendants, Price and Gooden, were not involved in the abduction and were arrested because they were watching her children when authorities showed up at a home in suburban Atlanta during the investigation.
Gooden’s attorney said there was hardly any mention of his client in the criminal complaint charging him and argued it was because he was just babysitting and ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. He also said Gooden has never been to North Carolina and has never been to the apartment where Janssen was held.
Price’s attorney said even though his client admitted to being associated with some people involved, he cooperated by telling FBI investigators where they could find Janssen.
Buchanan dismissed claims by the lawyers for Price and Gooden, noting an FBI agent said in a sworn statement Price told him he and Gooden had planned to be the “night watch” over Janssen the night he was caught.
Vionette Johnson, an attorney for Roberts, submitted records from her client’s employer that showed he was at work when Janssen was abducted and for much of the rest of the time Janssen was held.
Buchanan said authorities found Roberts in his SUV with Martin and Maynard and that a pistol, a pick and a shovel were also found in the SUV. Court documents cited a phone call between Melton and someone associated with the kidnappers suggesting how to kill Janssen and dispose of his body.
Witness testimony also placed Roberts at the apartment when Janssen was there, “bound and moaning in a closet,” Buchanan said.
Johnson said Roberts had the gun for protection because he works at a wrecking company and gets off around midnight. The pick and shovel were in his car because he had recently been doing work in his family’s yard, she said.
Martin waived her right to a bond hearing.
All five defendants were charged in North Carolina. Martin and Maynard waived their rights to a probable cause hearing and will be transferred to North Carolina.
The other three have a probable cause hearing April 23 unless a federal grand jury in North Carolina indicts them before then.