The inmate accused of orchestrating the kidnapping of a prosecutor’s father from his prison cell devised at least two schemes – one to go after his prosecutor and another targeting his defense attorney, according to an indictment filed in federal court Tuesday.
Prosecutors contend that Kelvin Melton, a 49-year-old man serving a life sentence in Polk Correctional Institution, offered his co-conspirators $10,000 each to help carry out two bizarre interstate plots – one that was aborted and one that ended up with the kidnapping of an assistant Wake County district attorney’s father, not the prosecutor herself.
Melton has been in prison in North Carolina since October 2012, when he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflict serious injury and with being a habitual felon.
The convictions, tied to the September 2011 shooting of a man, resulted in a lifetime prison sentence for Melton, who has been described in court documents as a “high-ranking member” of the Bloods gang.
Some time recently, according to prosecutors, Melton used a mobile phone illegally obtained in prison to text and call two women to help him assemble a kidnapping team.
Prosecutors say the team abandoned the plot to kidnap the public defender in late March but followed through with plans to go after the prosecutor.
That plan went awry, according to court documents, when a Google search done by one of the women turned up the address of the prosecutor’s father.
Frank Janssen, the 63-year-old father of Wake prosecutor Colleen Janssen, was kidnapped from his Wake Forest home April 5. Colleen Janssen was the assistant district attorney assigned to Melton’s 2012 case.
A four-day interstate manhunt followed Frank Janssen’s kidnapping, as investigators monitored texts and mobile phone calls sent to his wife. A team of federal agents rescued Janssen from an Atlanta apartment on April 9, and he was reunited with his family on April 10.
The case has raised questions about prisoners’ access to mobile phones and launched an investigation into the one that prosecutors contend was used to move people from Georgia to Louisiana and North Carolina and back to Atlanta.
Investigators contend that Melton sent more than 120 texts from the contraband phone he had in prison, some of which were related to the four days that Janssen was held captive.
Some time recently, before the end of March, prosecutors contend, Melton contacted Tianna Daney Maynard and Patricia Ann Kramer to mobilize men in the Atlanta region to help with the kidnapping plots.
Some in the crew went by nicknames – “Axt Up” or “Act Up,” “Flame,” “Hot.”
Kramer, according to the indictment, used her own money to rent a car in March and pay for members of the assembled team to travel to Louisiana and stay in a hotel there as part of the scheme to kidnap a person with ties to Melton’s defense attorney.
Melton, who also is known as “Dizzy” and “Old Man,” had promised an extra $1,000 to Kramer for travel expenses, according to the indictment.
An abandoned plot
The team, armed with a stun gun and firearm, aborted the “plot to kidnap a person with ties to the defense attorney” without specifying the intended target, according to the indictment.
“Despite traveling from Georgia to Louisiana and taking various other steps to carry out the kidnapping plot, the participants aborted the plot prior to completing the abduction,” the indictment states.
Nine people have been charged and arrested in the case.
Prosecutors are continuing to investigate the source of the phone in prison.
After the March kidnapping plot was abandoned, the focus shifted to the April plot, which took the women and two men to Wake Forest and the Heritage golf course community, where Frank Janssen and his wife lived.
On April 3, two women went to Low Rent Rental Car Co. in Mableton, Ga., and picked up a silver 2008 Nissan Versa.
Prosecutors contend that Maynard, who was listed as an “eligible driver” in the rental agreement, picked up another woman accused in the case – Jenna Paula Martin – to travel with her to North Carolina. Martin had been promised $6,000 for her participation, investigators said.
Two men were in the car.
While the four were on their way to North Carolina, Melton called them and instructed them to wear khakis and collared shirts. The kidnapping team stopped at a Walmart and bought clothes.
Trip to Wake Forest
As the team continued its journey north, Melton called and asked to be put on speaker phone to give each person instructions, according to the indictment.
The carload stopped in Lexington, S.C., and bought gas and food at a McDonald’s. They changed clothes at a rest stop near Wake Forest.
Once at the Heritage golf community, one of the women stayed with the car, according to the indictment, and the other grabbed a clipboard and knocked on the door of the home they thought belonged to the prosecutor.
Law enforcement authorities say Janssen was shocked with a stun gun after answering the knock of the stranger at his door. His hands were zip tied, and he was forced into the backseat of the Nissan, then onto the floorboard.
His abductors covered him with a blanket and kept their feet on him the entire trip back to Georgia.
Investigators contend that Melton arranged for Janssen to be held in an apartment in the Forest Cove apartment complex, also known as the “Four Seasons,” in Atlanta. The inmate had arranged to pay $100 per day for use of the apartment, they added.
While Janssen was held captive, Melton called Martin and dictated a text message to be sent to Janssen’s wife. A series of messages followed, and by April 9, authorities had focused on Melton as the man they suspected of orchestrating the threats and demands.
The Janssens have asked for privacy since the incident and have not spoken publicly about the kidnapping.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have revealed more and more about the case as the accused have court hearings, but the investigation continues.
Thomas Walker, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, which includes Wake Forest, has said his office will pursue all angles of the crime.
“This deliberate attack on our judicial system cannot be tolerated,” Walker said in a recent statement.