Crime

Trial of inmate accused of orchestrating Wake Forest kidnapping begins

April 2014: Wake Forest man rescued in Atlanta; abduction related to daughter's work as prosecutor

VIDEO: Jury selection will begin Monday in a federal trial that’s expected to provide a look at how a prison inmate got a mobile phone behind bars to organize the kidnapping of a Wake County prosecutor’s father, Frank Janssen. Kelvin Melton, desc
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VIDEO: Jury selection will begin Monday in a federal trial that’s expected to provide a look at how a prison inmate got a mobile phone behind bars to organize the kidnapping of a Wake County prosecutor’s father, Frank Janssen. Kelvin Melton, desc

Jury selection will begin Monday in a federal trial that’s expected to provide a look at how a prison inmate got a mobile phone behind bars to organize the kidnapping of a Wake County prosecutor’s father.

Kelvin Melton, described as a high-ranking Bloods gang member, is accused of using a contraband phone inside Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, where he was serving a life sentence, to retaliate against the assistant Wake district attorney who prosecuted him in 2012.

Melton, who was imprisoned for life as a habitual felon, devised at least two schemes from the maximum security prison cell – one to go after his prosecutor and another targeting his defense attorney, according to the indictments filed in his federal court case

Prosecutors contend the attempt to go after the defense attorney, who represented Melton at the 2012 trial on assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflict serious injury, was aborted. Instead, Melton offered his co-conspirators $10,000 each to help carry out an interstate kidnapping plot targeting the prosecutor.

Frank Janssen, the father of Wake prosecutor Colleen Janssen, was kidnapped from his Wake Forest home on April 5, 2014. Colleen Janssen was the assistant district attorney assigned to Melton’s 2012 case, which stemmed from the shooting of a man in 2011.

A four-day 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, 2014, and he was reunited with his family a day later.

The case has raised questions about prisoners’ access to mobile phones. The trial could reveal how Melton got 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 give a glimpse behind the scenes during the four days that Janssen was held captive.

In the spring of 2014, 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” and “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 indictment states that the team, armed with a stun gun and firearm, aborted the “plot to kidnap a person with ties to the defense attorney.”

“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.

The focus then 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 shirts with collars. The kidnapping team stopped at a Walmart and bought clothes.

As they continued their 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.

As Janssen answered his door, he was shocked with a stun gun and his hands were zip tied. 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, 2014, authorities had focused on Melton as the man they suspected of orchestrating the threats and demands.

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1

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