Kidnapper recounts abduction of Wake prosecutor's father
Posted June 14
Raleigh, N.C. — A gang leader accused of orchestrating the abduction of a Wake County prosecutor's father two years ago while behind bars laughed as he received real-time updates of the kidnapping over the phone, a subordinate testified Tuesday.
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 by mistake.
FBI agents raided an Atlanta apartment and freed Frank Janssen five days after he was kidnapped from his Wake Forest home.
Tianna Maynard, a member of Melton's unit of the Bloods street gang, described in detail for jurors how she drove three others – Quantavious Thompson, Jakym Tibbs and Jenna Martin – in a rented car from Atlanta to Wake Forest and carried out the crime.
The crew had several addresses for Colleen Janssen and happened to pick her parents' house, Maynard said. Once they arrived, they burst through the front door when Frank Janssen answered the doorbell.
"He was zip-tied, and he tried to resist Quan, and Quan hit him with a pistol in the face," Maynard testified, noting that she was on the phone with Melton the whole time describing what was happening.
"He was laughing," she said.
The group tossed Janssen on the floor of the car and drove back to Atlanta, but she said he tried to escape during the trip.
"Mr. Janssen bit through the zip ties. He managed to sit up and grab my arm," she said. "He tried to snatch my arms so the car would wreck."
The attempt didn't work, and the men in the car pistol-whipped Janssen and sat with their feet on top of him, she said.
Maynard, who sported a shaved head with a 6-inch Mohawk haircut on the witness stand, also described Janssen's captivity, which included being handcuffed and taped to a kitchen chair with a ski mask over his head in a bedroom closet. He also was denied food and water.
The group sent threatening texts to Janssen's wife, and Maynard also sent a photograph that she took of him in the chair.
"Dizzy directed me on what to say. I wrote it down, typed it in and sent it," she testified, referring to Melton by his gang nickname. "My understanding (was) we were supposed to meet somebody and exchange money for the person."
Instead, Melton issued the order a few days later to kill Janssen.
In a chilling recording of an FBI wiretap of what prosecutors say was Melton's call from prison, a man is heard providing instructions on how to kill Janssen, dispose of his body and cover up the crime.
"Gag him real tight. Put something in his mouth. Put something over his head. Tie something real tight around it, and just leave it," the man says in the recording.
During the call, the kidnappers laugh from time to time, and children can be heard playing in the background.
The caller directed the group to look for a secluded place to bury the body.
"Check around. Make sure the ground is soft," he said. "Go at least 3 feet down."
The man also went into detail about cleaning the apartment with bleach, noting police have ways to find even tiny amounts of blood and other evidence.
"This cannot be a half-assed job," he said. "You cannot leave nothing behind."
Maynard said the group scouted out a couple of places to bury the body and did a practice run digging a hole, but the ground was too hard.
Authorities eventually used the cellphone calls to trace Janssen's location to Atlanta and raided the apartment. The four crew members were rounded up within hours.