Most crime is too common, but …

By Joe Lambe

One morning last year, a 67-year-old south Kansas City man put his lunchbox into his truck and started to go to work.

So began his trip into the annals of strange crime.

A man pleaded guilty today to kidnapping that plucky victim, stealing his van and driving him across the state.

Robert C. Caldwell, 26, of Danville, Ken, pleaded in federal court in Kansas City to kidnapping, carjacking, kidnapping conspiracy, using a firearm in a crime of violence and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

At 5:30 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2015, Caldwell, with a juvenile, pointed a gun at the victim and took his wallet, cash and keys to his 1998 van.

Caldwell forced him into the van, pistol-whipped him and the journey began.

From court records and a media release by federal prosecutors:

They first drove him to several ATMs and tried to use his debit card, but the victim had forgotten his PIN number, which upset the thieves.

They threatened to kill him. They pretended to be on a phone with an accomplice they said was with his wife. At one point they told him his wife had been killed.

They continued to drive east on I-70, using his credit cards along the way.

Meanwhile, his wife had become suspicious after she found her husband’s work truck in the driveway, his lunchbox inside, his keys in the driver’s side door.

She called police and soon noticed unusual charges showing up on credit and debit cards. Police tracked the card usage like a trail of wreckage.

At one point an attacker shoved a gun in the victim’s mouth and broke his teeth. They tied his hands together, covered him with a blanket and drove on.

At a rest stop, the kidnappers fell asleep and the victim untied his hands, picked up a 45-pound weight and hit them both in the head.

But they stopped his escape and severely beat him.

They drove on and he pretended to be knocked out.

Near St. Louis, the driver sat his gun down on the floorboard and the victim grabbed it, pointed it the two carjackers and ordered them to pull over.

The driver moved toward him the victim pulled the trigger. The gun did not fire. The victim quickly racked the slide to chamber a round and the carjackers ran away with the keys.

The victim also ran down a street there in Jennings, Mo. He turned and saw the thieves had returned to his van and were driving toward him. He hid between houses and watched them drive away.

Police recovered the van on Jan. 23 after it was in an accident in Nelson County, Ken., and the kidnappers fled.

They arrested Caldwell four days later after a police chase. The repeat felon will be sentenced later to what could be up to life in prison.

The juvenile was also arrested and faces state charges as an adult.


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