Inside an empty brick home in East Baltimore, city police found a man who had been reported kidnapped. He was zip-tied, bleeding and suffering from numerous injuries from being beaten with a bat, police say.
There were more zip ties, the clothing of others and dried blood that did not appear to belong to the victim. Police say they believe the house had been used to hold and torture other kidnap victims.
The case has not been publicized by the Baltimore Police Department, but court documents lay out a fortuitous turn of events that led police to locate the missing man this month, get him to a hospital for treatment of critical injuries and catch the suspects as they left the scene of an attempted break-in in Howard County.
Police said the case started with a 911 call just before 11 p.m. Oct. 14. Officers went to the 700 block of Washington Blvd. for a report of a kidnapping. A woman told them she was with a man in the 800 block of S. Paca St. when two men wearing masks and gloves walked up. The man told her to run, and she fled and called 911, police say.
When she returned, he was gone, but another witness told police that two men wearing masks had assaulted another man and forced him into a dark-colored Lexus that drove away, according to charging documents.
The woman told police she couldn't remember the man's last name but recalled that he was co-owner of a store in the 600 block of N. Eutaw St. called Krush Clothing. Officers checked the state business records database and found that the company was registered to a 33-year-old woman living in Laurel. City police contacted Howard County police, seeking help to locate her quickly.
That call was crucial: As a Howard County officer was on his way to a home on Glendower Court, the woman was calling 911 to report a burglary in progress, police say.
She had watched from inside with her 13-year-old daughter as an SUV pulled up outside and a man looked at the house from a rolled-down window, police say. A man in the car looked at the house for what seemed like at least five minutes before he and a passenger got out and put on gloves.
The men walked up to the house and attempted to open the front door by trying several keys on a key ring, police said. The woman told police she turned on her porch lights and asked what they were doing, and that the men went back to their car and drove off.
Officers searched the area, found a vehicle matching the description she gave, and pulled it over. Three men were inside, and police said they could see keys and zip ties. The woman was taken to the scene by police and identified the men as those who had tried to get into her home.
Robert Johnson, 28, and Willie Jones, 30, both of Baltimore, and Jabbar Mickles, 39, of Laurel were arrested on burglary charges. Johnson had a large amount of cash and a traffic ticket in the kidnapping victim's name in his pocket, and officers saw apparent blood on his clothes. Police said all three men had gloves and "items that could be used as masks."
Police tracked the kidnap victim's vehicle to the rear of the 1300 block of E. Madison St.; charging documents do not say how. Detectives "observed a large amount of blood in the car," police wrote.
A search turned up the critically injured kidnapping victim inside an otherwise vacant two-story house in the block. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was treated for skull contusions, swelling of the brain and other injuries, police wrote in court papers.
His current condition was not immediately available.
Police said they were unable to conduct an extensive interview because of his condition. But the man described his kidnappers and said he had been beaten with a baseball bat and a pistol. The men repeatedly asked him, "Where's the money?" and left him alone in the house, telling him they knew where he lived and were going to abduct his girlfriend and daughter, police said.
A broader motive for the crime is not laid out in court records.
All three suspects were charged with attempted burglary in Howard County, and were being held without bond. Mickles and Jones did not have an attorney listed; Johnson's attorney could not be reached for comment. A woman reached at a number listed for Jones declined to comment.
Court records show Jones is charged with attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping, assault and a handgun charge. He was ordered held without bail Oct. 16.
Krush Clothing was registered with the state Department of Assessments and Taxation in late January, and opened for business in April, according to a posting on its Twitter page. Photos show a lime green and purple interior, with clothing racks displaying tank tops, T-shirts, dresses and skirts.
This week, the business was closed and blinds on the front door were drawn. Inside, there was no merchandise and a ladder sat near the front window. The phone number for the store was disconnected, and attempts to reach the owners were unsuccessful.
The owner of the vacant house where the kidnapped man was found did not respond to a request for comment.