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Press Release

Joplin Man Pleads Guilty to Kidnapping Conspiracy, Illegal Firearms

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri
Tortured, Fatally Shot Kidnapping Victim

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Joplin, Mo., man pleaded guilty in federal court today to his role in a kidnapping conspiracy that resulted in the death of the victim.

Freddie Lewis Tilton, also known as “Ol’ Boy,” 50, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

By pleading guilty today, Tilton admitted that he participated in a conspiracy to kidnap the victim, identified as “M.H.,” in July 2020. Co-defendants Carla Jo Ward, 49, of Joplin, James B. Gibson, 41, of Neosho, Mo., Amy Kay Thomas, 40, of Webb City, Mo., Lawrence William Vaughan, also known as “Scary Larry,” 52, of Newton County, Mo., and Russell Eugene Hurtt, also known as “Uncle,” 51, of Greenwood, Mo., have previously pleaded guilty.

According to the plea agreement, Ward picked up M.H., whom she knew was being sought by Tilton, and took him to Vaughan’s residence. Tilton, Thomas, and Gibson arrived at Vaughan’s residence in the early morning hours of July 15, 2020. They bound M.H.’s hands with handcuffs, and duct tape was placed around his mouth and other parts of his body. Gibson, Thomas, and others assaulted M.H. for a period of time. M.H. was cut, beaten, shot at, and burned with a blowtorch. As M.H. became bloody, Vaughan placed a plastic tarp on the floor. Tilton fatally shot M.H. in the head. They wrapped M.H.’s body in plastic wrap and transported it to Hurtt’s property.

Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Hurtt’s property on July 28, 2020, based on information that a deceased body was located on the acreage. When officers attempted to contact the occupants of the residence, Tilton fired multiple shots from inside the residence at the officers. Tilton was apprehended.

Officers found M.H.’s body on the property. Officers searched the residence and found a Rigarmi .25-caliber pistol, an Ithaca .22-caliber rifle, a Remington .22-caliber rifle without a serial number, a Harrington and Richardson 12-gauge shotgun, a Ruger 9mm handgun, and a Taurus 9mm handgun without a serial number.

Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Tilton has two prior felony convictions for burglary, two prior felony convictions for larceny of an automobile, and prior felony convictions for stealing, possession of a controlled substance, burglary of an automobile, possession of a chemical with intent to manufacture, receiving stolen property, unlawful use of a weapon, theft, and tampering.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ami Harshad Miller and James J. Kelleher. It was investigated by the FBI, the Newton County, Mo., Sheriff’s Department, the Neosho, Mo., Police Department, the Joplin, Mo., Police Department, and the Cherokee County, Kan., Sheriff’s Department.

Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at

Updated September 19, 2023

Violent Crime
Firearms Offenses