The defendant, who hails from Missouri, was one of five people charged in the attempted abduction.
The alleged kidnapping involved a case of mistaken identity. According to prosecutors, the defendant and his co-conspirators mistakenly believed that a Newton NJ pet store owner was a Mahwah NJ man. The two men reportedly had the same name: Jeffrey Muller.
Authorities believe that the defendant and two other people approached the victim in the parking lot of his pet store and zapped him with a stun gun. They then allegedly placed him in the trunk of a car, which they drove across the country to Lake Ozark, Missouri. The drive was approximately 1,200 miles.
At some point in the journey, the car broke down. That’s when the victim reportedly freed himself and tried to run. A local store clerk observed the suspects as they tried to chase down the victim; the witness then called the police.
Prosecutors said that the scheme stemmed from a conversation between the defendant and a 56-year-old entrepreneur from Nevada. Apparently, the entrepreneur’s plans to build a golf course in Utah fell by the wayside when the intended kidnapping victim failed to generate the necessary investors.
The other defendants in the case have already pleaded guilty to criminal charges for their roles in the kidnapping scheme.
However, instead of accepting the prosecution’s plea offer, the defendant has elected to take the case to trial. If a jury convicts him on the kidnapping charge, he could be sentenced to life in state prison, with a minimum of 30 years before he becomes eligible for parole.
The defendant is scheduled to return to Sussex County Superior Court in Newton NJ on December 22 so that a trial date can be set.
For more information about this case, check out the NJ.com article entitled “Man Accused of Bizarre Mistaken-Identity Kidnapping Rejects Plea Deal with 20-Year Sentence.”