Kentucky Man Pleads Guilty to Kidnapping Conspiracy
Victim Forced to Travel Across State Before Escaping from Captors
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Danville, Ken., man who carjacked a vehicle in Kansas City, Mo., and forced its owner to accompany him as he drove across the state, pleaded guilty in federal court today.
Robert C. Caldwell, 26, of Danville, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips to participating in a kidnapping conspiracy, one count of kidnapping, one count of carjacking, one count of using a firearm during a crime of violence and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Caldwell and an unindicted co-conspirator (who is considered a juvenile in the federal system but has been charged as an adult in state court) lay in wait outside the home of a 67-year-old Kansas City, Mo., man at about 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2015. They abducted the victim at gunpoint as he was leaving his home. He was forced to hand over his keys to his van, his wallet and cash. The victim was forced into his van, a 1998 Chevrolet CK 1500. He was beaten by Caldwell and his accomplice and struck in the head with the handgun, a Cobra .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol.
The victim told law enforcement officers that he was driven around to multiple ATMs, but he was covered with a blanket most of the time and was unable to see the locations where the carjackers attempted to use his debit card. He couldn’t remember his PIN number so they were unable to get cash, which made them angry. They repeatedly threatened his life and that of his wife. The kidnappers pretended to be on the phone with an accomplice who was holding his wife hostage; at one point after another failed ATM attempt, they informed him they had killed his wife, which was false.
According to court documents, they continued to drive and stopped at a drive-through restaurant, where one of the men sat next to the victim and shoved the barrel of the gun into his mouth, breaking his teeth, and told him that he would kill him if he moved. After getting food, they tied his hands together with a boot strap and had him lying in the floor with a blanket over his face so he couldn’t see. They continued driving and made several stops for purchases with the victim’s credit and debit cards.
Law enforcement authorities, who had been contacted by the victim’s wife, were tracking the use of the victim’s credit and debit cards as they were used or attempted to be used along I-70 eastbound. Investigators obtained surveillance photos and video from some of the locations.
When they arrived at a rest stop, according to court documents, one of the carjackers told the other to watch the victim while the carjacker slept. The victim managed to untie his hands and retrieve a homemade 45-pound weight from under the seat of the van. He struck both of the carjackers in the head (causing a gash above the eye of one of them) and made an attempt to escape, but was unsuccessful. He was then beaten heavily by both men.
They began driving again, and the victim pretended to be knocked out. The driver of the van was having trouble maneuvering the large van while holding the gun, so he sat the gun on the floorboard so he could use both hands to steer the vehicle. The victim lunged for the handgun and pointed it at the two carjackers as he demanded they pull over. When the vehicle pulled over, the driver made a move towards the victim, who pulled the trigger of the loaded gun, but it failed to fire. The victim quickly racked the slide to chamber a round, but both men had fled from the vehicle with the keys.
The victim also ran from the vehicle. As he ran down the street in Jennings, Mo., he turned and saw the two carjackers had returned to the vehicle and were slowly driving in his direction. The victim hid between several houses as he watched them drive away in his van. He then contacted the police.
The stolen van was recovered on Jan. 23, 2015, in Nelson County, Ken., after it was involved in an accident and the kidnappers fled. Caldwell was arrested in Kentucky on Jan. 27, 2015, following a pursuit by officers with the Kentucky State Police and the Lincoln County, Ken., Sheriff’s Department.
Under federal statutes, Caldwell is subject to a sentence of up to life in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for June 30, 2016.
This case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson and First Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark. It was investigated by the FBI and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.