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Press Release

Six Southwest Missouri Residents Indicted for Kidnapping, Murder

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Missouri

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Six southwest Missouri residents have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a kidnapping conspiracy that resulted in the death of the victim.

Freddie Lewis Tilton, also known as “Ol’ Boy,” 48, and Carla Jo Ward, 47, both of Joplin, Mo.; Amy Kay Thomas, 38, of Webb City, Mo.; James B. Gibson, 39, of Neosho, Mo.; Lawrence William Vaughan, also known as “Scary Larry,” 49, of Newton County, Mo.; and Russell Eugene Hurtt, also known as “Uncle,” 49, of Greenwood, Mo.; were charged in a five-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Thursday, July 29.

The federal indictment alleges that each of the six defendants participated in a conspiracy to kidnap the victim, identified as “M.H.,” in July 2020. According to the indictment, Ward picked up M.H. 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. In Vaughan and Ward’s presence, the indictment says, Thomas cut M.H. repeatedly with a knife and Gibson beat M.H. with a club. 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, the indictment says, Tilton fired multiple shots from inside the residence at the officers. Tilton was apprehended. Officers found M.H.’s body on the property.

In addition to the conspiracy, the indictment charges each of the six defendants in one count of kidnapping resulting in death and in one count of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, resulting in murder.

Tilton, Thomas, Gibson, and Ward are also charged together in one count of being felons in possession of a firearm on July 14, 2020.

Tilton is also charged with one count of being a felon in possession of firearms on July 28, 2020. Tilton allegedly was in possession of a Rigarmi .25-caliber pistol, an Ithaca .22-caliber rifle, a Remington .22-caliber rifle, a Harrington and Richardson 12-gauge shotgun, a Ruger 9mm handgun, and a Taurus 9mm handgun at the time of his arrest.

The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. 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 Forces (OCDETF)

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 July 30, 2021

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