It has all the elements of a blockbuster thriller: a brother and sister kidnapped together, a stripper, drugs, ransom demands and cold, hard cash.
Six people are accused of kidnapping Aaron Blackwell, 16, and his sister, Emma Blackwell, 13, from their Indianapolis home during the early hours of March 2. It started when the teenagers’ sister, Whitney Blackwell, 27, robbed her ex-boyfriend, John "Jay" Thomas, of $120,000, a kilogram of cocaine and 4,000 Oxycontin pills.
Whitney, an exotic dancer at Club Venus in Detroit, told the Indianapolis Star that she stole the drugs and money from Thomas, a Detroit-based drug dealer, because he was being abusive towards her and she feared for the safety of her 6-year-old son. "He went and kidnapped my brother and sister because he couldn't find me,” she said in a jailhouse interview. "If I would have just stayed, he would have just killed me and my kid and he wouldn't have hurt my brother and sister.”
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At 2:30 a.m. on March 2, three armed men kicked in the door at the Blackwell’s family home in Indianapolis and demanded to know where the money was. Kathleen Blackwell, the teenagers’ mother, told them she didn’t know, so the men put Emma and Aaron in two separate SUVs and drove away.
Thomas demanded ransom money from the teens’ adult brother, Stanley Blackwell. He instructed that the money be dropped off in Miami within 24 hours and threatened to cut off Aaron’s finger if the money wasn’t delivered in time.
Police quickly zeroed in on the home Thomas shared with Whitney and caught him as he tried to escape. Thomas said he didn’t know anything about the kidnapping, but data from his cellphone revealed he'd conspired to ensure the teens were abducted.
Two more suspects, Ali Ashore and Bernando Reeves, were identified after a police stake out. The pair led police in a car chase, and when their vehicle crashed into a snow bank, authorities found Aaron Blackwell, blindfolded and restrained, in the luggage compartment. Aaron’s fingers were sliced and bloody when he was found.
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Ashore and Reeves told police they agreed to hold the teen for some men they met at a gas station, but they planned to leave Aaron after they heard an Amber Alert had been issued in connection with his disappearance. The pair had been promised $1,000 for holding Aaron.
Emma found her way home without the police. She told investigators her captors dropped her off with a man and a woman in Detroit. They then drove her to a remote location in Kentucky, where they got scared they would be caught. The pair dropped her off at a Taco Bell in Dayton, Ohio, and gave her $200 so she could get home to Indianapolis in a cab. She arrived home less than 24 hours after she was kidnapped.
Whitney was charged with intent to distribute cocaine. She told reporters she stole only $43,000 and that she was sorry that her brother and sister got kidnapped. Her mother, Kathleen, told investigators she had "no doubt that Whitney was hoping to keep the money and had little concern for her kidnapped brother and sister's safety.”
Stanley was also arrested for breaking into a home where he believed the stolen money was hidden.
Thomas has been indicted for conspiring to kidnap Emma and Aaron, along with Bernando "C-Note" Reeves, Ali H. Ashore, Mohammed "Moe" or "MJ" Karkash, April Sandell and Alaa "Alex" or "Big Boi" Al-Salehi.
Some of the money has since been recovered.