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Gang leader gets life sentence for kidnapping Wake prosecutor's father

Posted November 10

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— A gang leader who masterminded the kidnapping of a Wake County prosecutor's father two years ago as payback for putting him behind bars was sentenced Thursday to life in federal prison.

Kelvin Melton, 51, was convicted in June of conspiracy, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping and using a firearm during a violent crime.

Authorities said Melton wanted to exact revenge on Wake County Assistant District Attorney Colleen Janssen, who prosecuted him in a 2012 attempted murder case, which earned him a life sentence in state prison as a habitual felon.

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 instead.

FBI agents later monitored cellphone calls between Melton and his gang to pinpoint Frank Janssen's location, and they raided an Atlanta apartment to rescue him five days after he was taken from his Wake Forest home.

"I will never be the same," Frank Janssen said in court Thursday. "I am and will forever be a prisoner of this kidnapping. It will never be erased from my memory."

He thanked law enforcement Thursday for their "remarkable response" and said he wouldn't be alive if they hadn't handled the case as they did.

Colleen Janssen was just as grateful, saying she "had the honor of hugging the men who blew the door off" during the Atlanta raid.

"This was a terrifying, scary, awful experience to need the help of hundreds of people," Colleen Janssen said in court. "It was awe-inspiring and humbling when you reach out for that help and get it. They gave us everything we needed, and they brought my father home."

Four co-defendants – Tianna Maynard, Quantavious Thompson, Jakym Tibbs and Jenna Martin – testified during Melton's trial that they drove a rental car from Atlanta to the Triangle, stormed into Frank Janssen's house and used a stun gun and pistol-whipping to beat him into submission. They tossed him in the back of the car and returned to Atlanta, where they handcuffed and blindfolded him, taped him to a chair and left him in a padlocked closet without food and water.

At every step of the way, they said, Melton provided instructions over the phone, culminating with him telling they how to kill him, dispose of the body and clean the apartment with bleach to cover up the crime.

Melton said he would never get involved in a "stupid" caper like the kidnapping, contending someone else had set him up to take the fall for the crime so they could move up in the hierarchy of the Bloods street gang. His defense attorneys argued that all of the co-defendants lied about Melton's involvement to secure reduced sentences for themselves under plea agreements with the government.

U.S. District Judge James Dever called the kidnapping "horrific," noting how Frank Janssen was continually brutalized during his captivity. He also called the recorded phone call in which Melton ordered Janssen's death "one of the most chilling things I've ever heard."

"It is a chilling thing when someone has dedicated their life to public service – to serving the public, the prosecution of crimes – is victimized, and their family is victimized just because of that," Acting U.S. Attorney John Bruce said after the sentencing.

Melton's attorney, Gerald Beavers, said he has apologized to Frank Janssen for the ordeal and is "buoyed by the fact that he is resolute and he is firm and he's doing well."

Colleen Janssen requested that Melton serve his time in federal prison, saying the state Department of Public Safety, which manages North Carolina's prison system, "has proven itself woefully inadequate of protecting me and my family from a criminal of this caliber."

All she wants, she said, is for her family to walk out of the courtroom and never have to think about Melton or his whereabouts again.

Dever recommended that Melton serve his life sentence, which runs consecutive to the life sentence he's already serving, in a "supermax" federal penitentiary in Florence, Colo., where inmates spend 23 hours a day locked in their cells.

The list of inmates housed there includes foreign terrorists such as 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui and "shoe bomber" Richard Reid; domestic terrorists such as Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols and Eric Rudolph, who bombed Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta; spy Robert Hanssen; and numerous organized crime figures.

"There is really nothing redeeming about the life you have lived," Dever told Melton. "If you are breathing, you will be attempting to commit crimes. ... Society needs to be protected from you, and today, it will be."

Bruce said he agrees with the recommendation.

"I think the facts of this case show that Kelvin Melton will attempt to commit crimes wherever he is, so he must be in a facility where that is not possible," he said.

But Frank Janssen isn't convinced a supermax prison will deter Melton.

"The sentence will probably not change or impede the defendant's criminal behavior," he said.

4 Comments

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  • Norman Lewis Nov 10, 6:12 p.m.
    user avatar

    The problem is not the Department of Public Safety being able to protect the citizens. The problem is that the system and particularly the Correctional Officers, are not allowed to perform their jobs in a way that will contain the criminals and make this type of criminal activity in the prison impossible. You can't do certain searches and so forth when you need to and you can't monitor the inmates as needed due to staff shortages. The inmates are allowed to basically run their units and violate facility rules for security of the staff at will. We need upper level custody staff to strictly enforce rules of behavior of the staff and inmates and make the prison less like a summer camp and more like a prison.

  • Benjamin Kite Nov 10, 2:09 p.m.
    user avatar

    I am against the death penalty. But, when prison walls are demonstrably unable to contain the threat to society that a criminal represents, it's time to end that life. We don't have the means to be safe from him while he is alive.

  • Kenneth Jones Nov 10, 12:24 p.m.
    user avatar

    So, it's from state prison to federal prison. What a sentence. Maybe they slapped him on the hand as well....

  • Betsey Duggins Nov 10, 11:47 a.m.
    user avatar

    Justice served. Well done!