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Press Release

Kentucky Man Sentenced to 45 Years in Prison for Kidnapping Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri
Victim Beaten, Robbed, 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, Ky., man who carjacked a vehicle in Kansas City, Mo., and forced its owner to accompany him as he drove across the state, was sentenced in federal court today.


“During a week-long, multi-state violent crime spree, this lifelong criminal terrorized several victims, including young children, and endangered the lives of many innocent people,” Dickinson said. “His violent crimes were horrific; in fact, the victim in this case believed he was about to die and it was only through his own heroic efforts that he escaped.”


Robert C. Caldwell, 26, of Danville, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Beth Phillips to 38 years in federal prison without parole, plus a consecutive sentence of seven years in prison for a firearm violation.


On Feb. 4, 2016, Caldwell pleaded guilty 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.


In January 2015, Caldwell and an accomplice (who is considered a juvenile in the federal system but has been charged as an adult in state court) robbed and kidnapped a 68-year-old man at gunpoint, attacked a young mother with her infant children, and robbed and kidnapped a 13-year-old child at gunpoint.


According to court documents, Caldwell stole a .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol and a truck in Kentucky prior to committing the federal offenses for which he was convicted in this case. Caldwell and his accomplice drove to Columbia, Mo., and met some friends from prison who arranged for a marijuana deal in St. Joseph, Mo. Their plan was to rob the drug dealer, but this plan fell through and they found themselves in Kansas City, Mo., with no money and no gas. They began burglarizing several vehicles in the Grandview, Mo., area and were able to avoid arrest following a high speed chase. They abandoned the stolen truck and ran into a wooded area near the residence of their first kidnapping victim.


Caldwell and his accomplice lay in wait outside the home of a 68-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.


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, chipping 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, Caldwell and his accomplice both fell asleep. 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 kidnappers 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.


According to court documents, Caldwell and his accomplice returned to the highway and drove through the night. They stopped the van at a Lynnville, Ind., high school around 5:45 p.m. They approached their next victim, a mother with three children, in the parking lot of the high school. The victim was holding her 2-year-old daughter in her arms when Caldwell approached her with a knife and demanded the backpack she was carrying. After taking the backpack, Caldwell pushed her and daughter to the ground, resulting in injuries to her arm.


Caldwell and his accomplice traveled back to Kentucky. Caldwell crashed the stolen van in Bardstown, Ky., and stole a Mitsubishi car near the scene of the crash.


According to court documents, Caldwell kidnapped a 13-year-old victim in Windsor, Ky., on Jan. 27, 2015. Caldwell, who was wearing a mask, approached the child victim with a rifle in his hands and demanded the keys to the Jeep in the driveway. The child victim told him the keys were in the Jeep. Caldwell then forced the child victim into the Jeep with him and put a blanket over his head. He eventually dropped off the child victim near a store a few miles away.


Caldwell later led law enforcement officers on a high-speed pursuit, at speeds up to 85-90 miles per hour. According to court documents, Caldwell was driving erratically in an attempt to flee, passing vehicles on the shoulder and forcing vehicles off the road, almost causing them to crash. After exiting the highway, Caldwell lost control of the Jeep and crashed over a curb into a yard. The Jeep appeared to be stuck, at which time a pursuing officer got out of his patrol car with his gun drawn, approached the Jeep and ordered Caldwell out. Caldwell did not surrender. Instead, he got the Jeep unstuck and drove through a busy parking lot at a high rate of speed, nearly striking several people. A high school in the area was placed on lock down because this chase was within 300 yards of the school. The chase ended when Caldwell drove the Jeep over an embankment and into a creek. Caldwell was apprehended after he exited the vehicle and fled into the woods.


This case was 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.

Updated July 1, 2016

Violent Crime