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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Nevada

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Pennsylvania Man Indicted In Kidnapping And Death Of Woman Whose Body Was Found In Nevada Desert

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A Pennsylvania resident was indicted by a federal grand jury today for allegedly kidnapping a woman in Pennsylvania then driving her to Nevada and killing her in the desert, announced U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich for the District of Nevada and Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse for the FBI.

John Matthew Chapman, 40, is charged with one count of kidnapping which resulted in the death of the victim. He was previously charged by a criminal complaint on February 20, 2020. Chapman is currently in federal custody in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he awaits his initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Albregts in U.S. District Court in Nevada on May 29, 2020.

According to allegations contained in the criminal complaint and indictment, on November 14, 2019, the Bethel Park Police Department in Pennsylvania conducted a welfare check on the victim at the request of a friend. During the welfare check, neighbors stated that they had not seen the victim in approximately two months, but they had observed a person whom they believed to be her boyfriend (Chapman) entering and leaving the victim’s residence. Inside the victim’s residence, officers found a fake CIA identification card with Chapman’s name and photograph, the victim’s cellular telephone, multiple zip ties, and a roll of duct tape.

A family member of the victim told investigators that she was communicating with the victim’s Facebook messenger account. Law enforcement determined that Chapman was pretending to be the victim, including responding to messages as the victim after her death.

On November 15, 2019, Chapman was arrested and interviewed by Bethel Park Police Department detectives. During the interview, Chapman admitted that in September 2019 he drove the victim from Bethel Park, Pennsylvania to Las Vegas, Nevada. He further admitted that he misled the victim to believe the trip was a vacation and they would potentially purchase a residence in Las Vegas. Chapman, however, had planned to kill the victim and had a “kill kit” ready before their departure to Nevada.

Chapman told investigators that he drove the victim out to the desert in Lincoln County, Nevada. Under the pretext of a photo shoot, the victim allowed Chapman to bind her hands and feet with plastic zip ties and affix her to a signpost. Chapman then applied duct tape to her mouth and nose, and watched her die from asphyxiation. The victim’s body was later discovered, and she was a “Jane Doe” unknown decedent until she was later positively identified by the Clark County Office of the Coroner/Medical Examiner through dental records.

The investigation revealed that Chapman returned to Pennsylvania afterwards, and continuously used the victim’s residence and money following her death and passed it off as his own.

If convicted, Chapman faces the maximum penalty of life in prison or death. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only. If convicted of the offense, the sentencing of a defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is the product of an investigation by the FBI, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, and the Bethel Park Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lisa Cartier-Giroux and Allison Reese are prosecuting the case.

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Topic(s): 
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated May 19, 2020