Police: They took the wrong guy
Wed, 13 Jan 2010 00:25:31 GMT —
New Jersey police are confirming this past weekend's bizarre kidnapping was in fact a case of "mistaken identity."
While the kidnapping itself took a lot of coordination and planning, it now seems the three suspects just had the wrong guy.
"I'd like to thank my dad for his willingness not to give up," said Jeff Muller's son, with the same name. "So happy that he's back home."
Jeffrey Muller lives in Ohio but came home to New Jersey to help reopen his dad's pet shop, where his 59-year-old father was kidnapped at gunpoint Friday morning.
Outside, police officers with assault rifles stand guard.
Police say three eastern Missouri men approached him and asked if he was Jeffrey Muller. When he said yes, they said, "You're coming with us," and used a Taser on him.
Muller fought back and got a black eye. The suspects lied, saying they had his wife and he cooperated.
Police say the kidnappers threatened him with three handguns. With Muller bound, his kidnappers drove more than 1000 miles back to Missouri. When they had car trouble they pulled into a gas station off Highway 54 in Lake Ozark.
That's when Muller was able to escape.
"Pure determination," said his son. "He was able to free himself and keep fighting and fighting and fighting the guys until someone called the cops."
That someone was Gordon Russel, who asked the store's owner to call police as Muller struggled with his captors.
"I was washing my windshield and this guy comes out of his vehicle over there and started waving his arms," said Russel. "And yelling, 'Get me out, help. I've been kidnapped. Get me out of here.'"
The alleged kidnappers told bystanders Muller was mentally ill and they were taking him to a mental hospital. But police arrived and believed his story.
"He is clueless as to why he way taken," said Lake Ozark Police Chief Mark Maples. "He did not give us any indication he has any ties here to Missouri. And so it just makes the mystery a little bit greater."
And the mystery continues. Police are now saying this was a case of mistaken identity, raising more questions in this already bizarre story.
All three suspects are currently at the Miller County Jail. Lonnie Swarnes waived extradition Monday and will be brought back to New Jersey within the next 10 days.
Douglas Stangeland and Andrew Wadel are fighting extradition. Both could be back in court as early as next Monday.