Frank Janssen, 63, vanished Saturday from his home in the 1400 block of Wake Forest's Sky Hill Place.
"I'm honored and humbled to say Frank Janssen is safe and back with his family today," said John Strong, special agent in charge of the FBI in North Carolina. "We can only imagine the uncertainty, confusion, and fear he experienced."
The FBI, the North Carolina SBI, and the Wake Forest Police Department said they discovered Janssen was being held inside an apartment in Georgia. The FBI's Hostage Rescue Team rescued him just before midnight from the Forest Cove Apartments complex in Southeast Atlanta.
Strong said Janssen has been reunited with his family.
"I can tell you Mr. Janssen was targeted by a group as part of an elaborate kidnapping plot. Specific demands were sent to Mr. Janssen's family for the benefit of Kelvin Melton, an inmate at the Polk Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina," said Strong.
Strong said Melton, 49, was previously prosecuted by Janssen's daughter Colleen, who is an assistant district attorney in Wake County. Melton is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole after being convicted of being a habitual felon and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. Multiple sources told ABC11 authorities are investigating the kidnapping as an act of retaliation linked to the gang the Bloods. Court records show Melton is a member of the gang.
Janssen went out Saturday morning for a bike ride while his wife was out shopping. But when she got back, she noticed blood drops outside, and there was no sign of her husband. According to court documents, Janssen returned from his ride, but then a woman came to his front door. When he answered, he was assaulted by several people who used a Taser to subdue him. They put him in a car and drove him to Georgia and began sending demands by text message. Some threatened to kill him and other family members as well. One text included a picture of Janssen tied to a chair.
The messages warned that if law enforcement was contacted "we will send [Mr. Janssen] back to you in six boxes." And "we will throw a grenade through your window."
The federal criminal complaint alleges Kelvin Melton masterminded the kidnapping by using a cell phone from his prison cell. Text messages quoted in the complaint appear to show the suspects were planning to kill Janssen by first forcing him to drink cold medicine to knock him out.
"Make sure to clean the area up. Don't leave anything. Don't leave any DNA behind," one text message instructs.
The messages suggest finding a secluded area with soft ground to bury the body and using bleach to clean up the murder scene.
Thomas Walker, US Attorney for the Eastern District, said five people now face federal kidnapping charges:
- Jenna Paulin Martin, 21
- Tiana Maynard - AKA "Tiana Brooks", 21
- Jevante Price - AKA "Flame", 21
- Michael Montreal Gooden - AKA "Hot", 22
- Clifton James Roberts, 29
They appeared Thursday in federal court in Atlanta, where a magistrate judge read the charges against them. They are due back in court for a bond hearing Tuesday, when they will each have a lawyer appointed by the judge.
If convicted, they face the possibility of a maximum sentence of life without parole.
"Our work is just beginning in this case," said Walker, who declined to release further information.
Janssen's family asked for privacy following their reunion with him. Colleen Janssen told ABC11's Ed Crump that the family is overjoyed and extremely relieved that her father is okay.
The FBI describes its Hostage Rescue Team on the agency website as a national level counterterrorist unit, offering a tactical option for any extraordinary hostage crisis or other law enforcement situation in the U.S. The FBI says the unit, established in 1983, responds to the most urgent and complex FBI cases.
Outside the Atlanta complex where Janssen was rescued Thursday morning, several residents described a loud boom that had startled them.
"They busted a wall. They opened the cabinets. They just destroyed everything," said eyewitness Shanquesia Jones.
Two mangled, charred doors lay in a courtyard area in front of one of the townhomes. Through the space where the doors once were, a washer and dryer and kitchen area were visible.
The two-story townhomes with brick and wood siding are next-door to a federal penitentiary, and the razor wire that rings the prison can be seen from the townhomes.
Associated Press reporters Allen G. Breed, Johnny Clark, and Michael Biesecker contributed to this report.