A 67-year-old south Kansas City man survived a harrowing ordeal at the hands of armed assailants before making a desperate escape in suburban St. Louis, according to details revealed in court documents.
Federal prosecutors in Kansas City filed the documents when they charged Robert C. Caldwell, 25, with carjacking, using a firearm during a violent crime and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The charges were announced Wednesday.
Authorities arrested him Tuesday in Kentucky after chasing him by vehicle and foot. A second person involved in the Kansas City abduction remains at large.
The incident began about 5:30 a.m. Jan. 22, as the Kansas City man left his home in the 12200 block of Prospect Avenue to go to work.
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According to the court documents:
Two men approached him outside his house and, at gunpoint, demanded his money, credit cards and keys to his van, he later told police.
They forced him into his garage, where both pistol-whipped him before ordering him into his van. They covered him with a blanket while they drove to different ATMs, but he told them he couldn’t remember his PIN, so they were unable to get cash.
His assailants became angry and told the man that an accomplice was holding his wife hostage.
“At one point after another failed ATM attempt, they informed him they had killed his wife,” according to the court documents.
They continued driving and stopped at a restaurant where one of the men shoved the barrel of a gun into the victim’s mouth, breaking some of his teeth. The gunman threatened to kill him if he moved.
They tied the victim’s hands with a boot strap and forced him to lie on the van’s floor covered with a blanket, part of which they shoved into his mouth.
Eventually, they stopped at a rest stop. After both men fell asleep, the victim untied his hands.
He then picked up a 45-pound weight from under a seat in the van and hit both kidnappers with it, gashing open a cut over one man’s eye.
The victim was unable to escape, however, and he was “beaten heavily” by both gunmen as they argued about who was supposed to be watching him.
The victim feigned being unconscious as the pair drove on side streets in Jennings, Mo., in suburban St. Louis.
He noticed that the driver was having trouble steering the full-size van. When the driver set his gun down on the floorboard, the victim grabbed the gun and pointed it at the men.
When the driver pulled over and moved toward him, the victim pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t fire.
The assailants jumped out of the van with the keys. The victim got out, too, and began running.
The assailants climbed back in the van and started driving toward him. The victim hid between houses until the men drove away. He then called police.
While the man was enduring that ordeal, Kansas City police, alerted by the man’s wife that he was missing, obtained a court order to track his cellphone, according to the documents.
They determined the phone was about 88 miles east of Kansas City when someone turned it off.
Detectives determined that the victim’s credit card had been used at a restaurant in Nelson, Mo. Detectives obtained surveillance video of one of the assailants at that restaurant. Detectives were at the restaurant when they got word of the victim’s escape.
The abductors continued using the victim’s credit card at gas stations in Illinois and Indiana and appeared to be heading to Kentucky.
Late that night, after the Kansas City man’s van was involved in a traffic crash in Bardstown, Ky., a man fled the scene on foot before stealing another car nearby.
The next day, the FBI released surveillance photos of two suspects. A detective with the Nelson County sheriff’s office in Kentucky recognized Caldwell, whom he had had contact with a few weeks before, according to the court documents.
The detective also had a cellphone number for Caldwell.
A caller to the TIPS Hotline in Kansas City also provided Caldwell’s name. That caller said Caldwell and the other suspect, known as “Day Day,” lived in Kentucky but “go to Kansas City to do this sort of crime frequently.”
Kansas City police said they were aware of that tip and that the information will be followed up on as part of the ongoing investigation with the FBI.
Authorities in Kentucky said that the men may have come to Kansas City in a stolen vehicle that was left abandoned near the scene of the Kansas City kidnapping.
On Sunday, the Nelson County detective called Caldwell on his cellphone.
“You are in a lot of trouble, man, let me help you,” the detective told him, according to a transcript of their conversation.
“They got me, I can’t go back to prison,” Caldwell replied, according to the transcript. “They got me for kidnapping, man. If I go back, it’s for life. I’m not doing life.”
According to court and prison records, Caldwell had been paroled last May after serving time for a 2006 robbery in Greene County, Mo.
The detective tried to persuade Caldwell to turn himself in.
“I’m not going back,” Caldwell said before hanging up.
Authorities arrested Caldwell on Tuesday afternoon in Kentucky after he allegedly stole a Jeep Wrangler and kidnapped a 13-year-old boy at gunpoint in Casey County, Ky.
The boy was released unharmed. Later, the Jeep side-swiped an unmarked police car. According to the Kentucky State Police, detectives in the unmarked car had not been involved in the search for Caldwell. After they were hit, they chased the Jeep but lost it.
Numerous officers began looking for the Jeep. After several hours, searchers spotted it and again chased it.
The Jeep’s driver attempted to escape off-road but got stuck in a creek bed. He fled on foot but was taken into custody by deputies from Lincoln County, Ky., according to the state police.
Later Tuesday, Caldwell was charged in Lincoln County with state charges of fleeing and eluding police, criminal mischief, kidnapping, robbery and auto theft.
Caldwell’s arrest was “very good news,” the Kansas City victim’s wife said in a brief phone conversation Wednesday.
“We’re very thrilled to hear one of the people is in custody,” she said. “We have every confidence the other person will be picked up soon.”