Local News

Details emerge in plot to kidnap Wake prosecutor's father

Posted June 15, 2016

— Three members of a four-person crew assigned to kidnap a Wake County prosecutor testified Wednesday that the plot was orchestrated over the phone by a gang leader who is in prison.

Kelvin Melton, 51, is on trial in federal court in Raleigh for the April 2014 kidnapping of the father of Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen, who prosecuted Melton in a 2012 attempted murder in Raleigh, which earned him a life sentence as a habitual felon.

Authorities have said Melton used a cellphone smuggled to him at Polk Correctional Institution in Butner to order subordinates to abduct Janssen, but the crew went to the wrong address and grabbed her father.

FBI agents raided an Atlanta apartment and freed Frank Janssen five days after he was kidnapped from his Wake Forest home.

Quantavious Thompson, Jakym Tibbs and Jenna Martin testified that they traveled from Atlanta to Wake Forest with Tianna Maynard to grab Frank Janssen, with Martin posing as a postal worker to get Janssen to open his front door.

"I moved to the side, and they forced their way in and knocked him down, tased him and hit him with a pistol," Martin said.

"Did Mr. Janssen resist?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Cooley asked.

"He tried," Martin said.

"What happened?" Cooley asked.

"They pistol-whipped him," she replied.

"I held him at gunpoint," Thompson said. "I said, 'I don't want to hurt you. I just don't want to hurt you.' I told him to lay down. He resisted. I hit him on the head with a gun."

Thompson said his instructions from Melton were to kidnap Colleen Janssen if possible or to get one of her parents. "I knew I was in too deep," he added.

He and Tibbs beat Janssen again and used a stun gun on him so many times it ran out of power after he tried to escape while the group drove back to Atlanta, Martin said.

Martin, who testified Tuesday, was on the phone with Melton throughout the kidnapping, giving him a play-by-play account, the witnesses said. During a couple of the calls, the phone was put to Janssen's ear. Thompson said it appeared Melton was asking during one call where Janssen's family was.

"Y'all just don't know. You just did something worth it for me. Thank you all," Thompson said Melton told the group on speakerphone on the trip back to Atlanta.

Each of the four said they had no idea who Janssen was or why they kidnapped him, only that Melton wanted it done.

In Atlanta, they handcuffed and taped Janssen to a kitchen chair and left him in the closet of an apartment bedroom without food or water. The group sent threatening texts to Janssen's wife, and Maynard sent a photograph that she took of him in the chair.

Martin said she tried to clean Janssen's wounds at one point and started texting her boyfriend trying to figure out how she got mixed up in the kidnapping.

"The Bloods are in this house. I would like to live," she said she thought.

As a white woman, Martin wasn't allowed in the gang, but she was introduced to Melton by her boyfriend, whose sister was dating the gang leader.

After a few days, Melton ordered the group to kill Janssen, they said.

For the second straight day, prosecutors played for jurors a recording of an FBI wiretap of what they say was Melton calling from prison to provide instructions on how to kill him, dispose of his body and cover up the crime.

"I don't want to turn all morbid and (expletive) in front of the ladies, but you don't want it to be bloody," a man says in the recording.

He told them to force Janssen to drink a bottle of cold medicine to make him sleepy enough that he wouldn't fight when they put a bag over his head to suffocate him.

Per Melton's instructions, they said, they went out to look for a place to bury the body. Martin said she never returned to the apartment after the second excursion, noting she heard police helicopters circling the neighborhood.

Authorities used the cellphone calls to trace Janssen's location to Atlanta and raided the apartment, and the four crew members were rounded up within hours.


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