The alleged kidnappers of a North Carolina man rescued late Wednesday from a southeast Atlanta apartment complex sent the victim's wife a photo of him tied up and threatened to torture and dismember him, then return him to her in six boxes, federal authorities said Thursday.
An elite FBI team rescued 63-year-old Frank Arthur Janssen from the Forest Cove Apartments on New Town Circle in southeast Atlanta just before midnight Wednesday, FBI spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said in a statement. He was kidnapped from his home in Wake Forest, N.C., on Saturday.
John Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Charlotte office, said at a Thursday press briefing that Janssen's kidnapping was related to Kelvin Melton, a reputed high-ranking member of the "Bloods" gang who is currently serving a sentence of life without parole in a North Carolina prison after being prosecuted by Janssen's daughter, an assistant district attorney in Wake County, N.C.
Melton was convicted in October 2012 on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, which made him a violent habitual offender.
"I can tell you that Mr. Janssen was targeted by a group as part of an elaborate kidnapping plot," Strong said. "Specific demands were sent to Mr. Janssen's family for the benefit of Kelvin Melton."
Janssen "spent five nights in the hands of a group of very dangerous people," Strong said. "We can only imagine the uncertainty, confusion and fear he experienced."
Thomas Walker, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said five people have been charged in the kidnapping: Jenna Paulin Martin, 21, Tiana Maynard, 20, Jevante Price, Michael Montreal Gooden, 21, and Clifton James Roberts, 19.
All of the suspects are in custody in Atlanta, said Don Connelly, Walker's spokesman.
They appeared in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Gerrilyn Brill on Thursday afternoon. A detention hearing was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to determine if they should be held without bond. The suspects will be tried in North Carolina, authorities said.
Janssen works as a government contractor and has high-level security clearance, but police in Wake Forest have said all along that they did not believe his job was a factor in his abduction.
Wake Forest police said in a statement earlier this week that Janssen returned home from a bike ride about 9 a.m. Saturday, but when his wife returned home later from shopping, "she discovered he was not home and became concerned when she saw what appeared to be drops of blood outside the home."
According to a criminal complaint obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a woman knocked on Janssen's door on Saturday. Several people assaulted him and someone used a stun gun on him. He was then driven to Atlanta.
On Monday, Janssen's wife, Christie, started receiving a series of text messages from a phone in Georgia. One of the texts said if law enforcement was contacted: "we will send (Mr. Janssen) back to you in 6 boxes and every chance we get we will take someone in your family to Italy and torture them and kill them ... we will do drive by and gun down anybody."
According to the complaint, at 12:19 a.m. Wednesday, Janssen's wife received a text photograph of him tied up in a chair.
Strong said police in Atlanta, Alpharetta and Cobb County, as well as the GBI, the Cobb County District Attorney's Office and 16 North Carolina law enforcement agencies, were involved in the investigation that led to Janssen's rescue.
Janssen has been reunited with his family, Lynch told the AJC.
"We are not releasing any additional details about their whereabouts to protect their privacy," she said.
Hours after the rescue, about a dozen FBI agents were observed Thursday morning removing boxes of evidence from the Forest Cove Apartments.
Andre Hatcher was visiting his children at the Forest Cove complex Wednesday night when the SWAT team raided the apartment where Janssen was being held.
"We heard a boom, the flash bang, and saw the SWAT team go around front," Hatcher told the AJC Thursday morning.
"Had to be 20 or more, with night vision goggles on," he said. "They looked military."
Hatcher said he didn't see anyone in handcuffs, but did see one person taken away on a stretcher.
Briana Horne also lives in the complex and witnessed Wednesday night's FBI raid.
"They gave them a warning first, like, come out with your hands up, and nobody responded so they threw the bombs in the house and blew the door off," Horne said.
Staff photographer John Spink and the Associated Press contributed to this report.