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Press Release

Two Whitley County Men Convicted of Violent Kidnapping

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Kentucky

LONDON, Ky. Two Rockholds, Kentucky, men, Jake Messer, 38, and George Oscar Messer, 62, have been convicted by federal juries sitting in London, of two counts of kidnapping. Jake Messer was convicted on Thursday morning, after a three-day trial.  George Oscar Messer was convicted on January 13, 2022, after his three-day trial

According to trial evidence, the kidnappings were motivated by a drug transaction that went off track. The Messers kidnapped two victims, in Rockholds, and transported them to a remote trailer in Manchester.  There, the victims were held for approximately 24 hours, during which time they were interrogated.  One victim was repeatedly sexually assaulted.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Kentucky State Police (KSP) Drug Enforcement and Special Investigations Unit recovered 15 firearms and numerous controlled substances from the Messer residence.  Several of the firearms, including an assault rifle, were used in furtherance of the kidnappings.  

The Messers were indicted in November of 2020.  Their two co-conspirators, Joshua Mills and Stephen S. Jewell, previously entered guilty pleas to kidnapping and are likewise awaiting sentencing.  

Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Shawn S. Morrow, Special Agent in Charge, ATF, Louisville Field Division; and Colonel Phillip Burnett, Commissioner of the Kentucky State Police jointly announced the verdicts.

The investigation was conducted by the ATF and KSP.  The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jenna E. Reed.

Jake Messer will appear for sentencing on May 31, 2022; George Oscar Messer will appear on May 11, 2022; Joshua Mills will appear on May 16, 2022; and Stephen S. Jewell will appear on May 6, 2022.

Each defendant faces a maximum of Life in prison.  However, the Court must consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the applicable federal sentencing statutes before imposing the sentence.

This case prosecuted as part of the Department of Justice’s “Project Safe Neighborhoods” Program (PSN), which is a nationwide, crime reduction strategy aimed at decreasing violent crime in communities. The PSN program involves a comprehensive approach to public safety — one that includes investigating and prosecuting crimes, along with prevention and reentry efforts. In the Eastern District of Kentucky, U.S. Attorney Shier coordinates PSN efforts in cooperation with various federal, state, and local law enforcement officials.



CONTACT: Gabrielle Dudgeon
PHONE: (859) 685-4887

Updated February 10, 2022

Violent Crime