Kidnappers Whose Plans Blew Up in their Faces
Kidnapping is easy. You take your own child, whom you have already been caring for and over whom you have legal guardianship, and go somewhere far, against the wishes of the child’s other legal guardian. That may not sound very exciting, but that’s how a surprisingly large percentage of real kidnapping cases go.
On the other hand, if you’re thinking of the more dramatic kind of kidnapping — where you nab some strangers and ransom them or issue demands — that would be trickier. It might end horribly for you, as it did for the kidnappers in the following stories.
Kidnappers Were Quietly Disarmed by Airport Security
In 1993, three men stormed the Nicaraguan embassy in Costa Rica and took 16 people hostage. The men were Contra rebels, and the government ended the two-week siege by paying them $250,000. While this was hardly the worst way such an incident could end — no one died, yay — the kidnappers got away, leaving the country as free men with money in their suitcases. This sent a signal that high-profile kidnappings were how you got rich.
And so, a detective named Guillermo Fallas planned a kidnapping with a small group of not-Contra rebels. The gang included his brother (a jailer), his uncle and two friends, both named Jaime. They were going to ask for a whole lot more than just $250,000, and the hostages in their kidnapping would be the country’s entire Supreme Court.
They entered the Supreme Court building on April 26th. Fallas had worked there before, so he knew how to enter through the basement and surprise the judges during a weekly meeting. Costa Rica had 24 judges in its Supreme Court in 1993. Even though three were on vacation, they still had a good 19 high-profile hostages. The kidnappers referred to themselves as “Death Command,” since that sounded cool, and Fallas called himself “Charlie,” since he thought that sounded cool, too. They demanded $20 million in exchange for the justices’ release. If they didn’t get it, they said they’d blow up the building and everyone inside it.
The president of Costa Rica declared that the government would pay no ransom — clearly, they couldn’t let this sort of thing become a weekly affair. On the flip side, storming the court building might end poorly. Guerillas had taken the Colombian Supreme Court hostage in 1985, and storming the place ended with 100 people dead, including 11 judges. So, the president said he wasn’t going to prevent anyone else from paying a ransom. The hostages’ families passed the hat around, and they came up with $150,000.
Death Command let the judges go. They still demanded safe passage out of the country to somewhere in South America, and they retained two police officers as replacement hostages. The government agreed to this, providing a van to take them to airport, where a plane awaited. The gang made it all the way to the base of the plane. Then they learned that they would have to leave their weapons behind, because c’mon, you can’t bring guns onto an airplane.
And so, they laid their guns down. Then the authorities swept in and took them into custody. The only shot fired during the airport showdown was of the warning variety by police, into the air. The kidnappers ended up facing 15-year sentences, but even before leaving the Supreme Court building, when he thought they were going to get away with it, Fallas left a note to tell everyone he wasn’t such bad guy. He claimed he was just trying to raise money to pay for medical treatment. Given that the guy had been previously trained by America's DEA, we think he could have made much safer money by merely dealing drugs.
A Murderer Sued His Hostages for Not Cooperating
Jesse Dimmick met Michael Curtis at a Colorado motel in September 2009. The two both liked drugs, which sometimes means the beginning of a beautiful friendship. This time, however, it meant Dimmick stabbed Curtis to death, so he could just steal the guy’s drugs, and also his wallet. Then Dimmick must have realized he was in trouble because he fled the state and headed for Kansas.
Police tracked him, and they brought his van to a stop using Stop Sticks, a handy little device you throw on the road to deflate tires. The van skidded into a front yard, and Dimmick got out and broke into the attached house. It belonged to a pair of newlyweds, Jared and Lindsay Rowley, and Dimmick took out his knife to take control of them. They calmed him down with Dr. Pepper and Cheetos. Then they watched Patch Adams together, and Dimmick fell asleep.
The cops now entered the building. They woke Dimmick up and got him to lie down on his stomach, and one officer “accidentally” shot him in the back with his rifle. Dimmick survived, and he’d go on to be convicted of the kidnapping while still awaiting trial for murder. The Rowleys also pursued the man civilly, suing him for $75,000 for emotional distress and for the tire tracks in their flower beds. Dimmick, in return, countersued them, for contract violation.
The way Dimmick described it, he’d told the couple that he was fleeing the cops, and they’d agreed to protect him. In exchange, he’d pay them some sum of money. Rather than follow through on their promise, they’d let the police take him, clearly breaking the terms of their oral contract.
The lawsuit did not succeed. The opposing lawyer might have said something about how contracts made under duress are invalid, or that any contract to achieve an illegal end is unenforceable. Instead, the defense argued that there had been no meeting of the minds, in that the two parties never agreed on a price. This was good enough. The judge threw out the case. A judge also threw out Dimmick’s suit against the cop who’d shot him.
A court sentenced the kidnapper-murderer to 37 years in prison. This was in spite of entreaties from his grandmother, who pointed out that, at the time of the crimes, “He was high.”
Three Lions Intervened
A gang of men snatched a girl in Ethiopia in 2005. Actually, gangs of men snatched many girls in Ethiopia in 2005, and before that, and after that. These abductions generally end in forced marriage. If this one ended that way, that would be routine, and we’d never have heard of it.
This kidnapping, however, did not go according to plan. The gang of men — four men or seven men; sources disagree on this, but either sounds like overkill for taking one kid — managed to hold on to the 12-year-old for a week. They traveled to Bita Genet, a town 350 miles from the capital. Then came the lions.
Three of them surrounded the vehicle. The men, terrified, took off, leaving the girl. The lions then stayed with her, and when police reached the group, they were still with her, having not harmed her. Lions are generally not known for fighting crime, and the ones in this area had a reputation for attacking both farm animals and humans. Still, the country has a history of celebrating lions. For years, the flag had the Lion of Judah on it, a normally Jewish symbol who here was holding a Christian cross.
Now, it’s possible that these lions weren’t really heroes trying to save the girl. Quite likely, when they surrounded her, they planned to eat her, a fate arguably even worse than marriage. One wildlife expert employed by the government’s rural development ministry said that maybe they protected her because her crying confused them. It made her sound like a mewling lion cub. So, that's your lion survival tip of the day. If the lions start circling, just start crying, but in a cute and feline way.
Kidnappers Soon Saw Their Own Families Kidnapped
Terrorists killed hundred of American soldiers in a Beirut suicide attack in 1983. That kind of sounds like a decent reason for the U.S. to declare war against someone. In the years that followed, Hezbollah figured that constantly keeping a few Westerners in their clutches would prevent the U.S. or anyone from major retaliation for that attack. The 1980s then became a dangerous time to be an expat in Beirut. Kidnappers just kept grabbing people, often because it was safest to have a few hostages just in case.
Hezbollah and associated groups kidnapped Americans, Brits and Germans. Then, in September 1985, they grabbed four Soviet diplomats. They pulled the men out of two cars in two separate incidents, hustled them into other cars and whooshed them away. They’d go one to kill one of hostages, Arkady Katkov. The other three, they kept for one month before finally releasing them.
They released them following some retaliation from the Soviets. Rather than attacking the kidnappers directly, the KGB kidnapped a relative of a Hezbollah leader. Supposedly, this leader was one of the kidnappers, though this is uncertain — with most of these kidnappings, it was difficult to identify the exact perpetrators. Let’s say that the KGB either kidnapped the kidnappers’ family or kidnapped the family of someone else in the greater organization.
The KGB did not hold this relative hostage and then conduct a hostage exchange either. No, they cut off his dick and balls. After that, they mailed the organs to the leader, warning him that other relatives faced similar extreme manscaping unless Hezbollah freed the diplomats. Oh, and the KGB also killed their eunuch, which removed his value as a hostage, but the leader had other relatives they could nab.
The kidnappers released the remaining three Soviets. Turns out it’s easy to beat kidnappers in negotiations, if you’re cool with murdering total innocents — and with penis postage.
The Wyoming Couple and Their Homemade Bomb
A woman popped her head into several classrooms at Cokeville Elementary in Wyoming one day in 1986. There was an assembly, she said, so everyone should come follow her. No one knew who she was, but hey, assemblies are always fun, so people followed. She soon had 136 kids and 18 adults crowded in a single room. At the front of the room were a bunch of guns. Huh, thought the kids, as this was a simpler time. Maybe it was an assembly about proper gun use.
Also in front was David Young, husband of the woman (Doris Young) who’d assembled them. Along with the guns, he had a gasoline bomb set up in a shopping cart. The trigger was in his hands, and if anything happened to him, his hand would relax, and the trigger would fire. The couple were holding the school hostage in exchange for $2 million per hostage. Even after receiving the money, they planned to kill the children, to transport them to a “Brave New World” where David would be God. Neither David nor Doris were necessarily what you would call sane.
They stayed in that room for a few very tense hours. It was one kid’s birthday, so the teachers had everyone sing “Happy Birthday”; legally, this constituted torture. Some teachers requested permission to go to the library and fetch movies to put on to calm the children, and rather than taking the opportunity to escape, they did fetch these tapes and put them on.
David became increasingly agitated, so the teachers came up with the idea to lay down masking tape on the ground around him, telling him they’d set off a square of personal space for him that no one could invade. Then David passed the trigger to Doris and stepped out. This didn’t work out so great. Doris soon stretched one arm and accidentally hit the trigger. The bomb exploded, setting her aflame.
The bomb did not, however, blow up the building and kill everyone in it, as planned. The gasoline burned, but the blasting caps didn’t go off, and the powder that was supposed to aerosolize and set the very air on fire stayed put. When David came back into the room, he saw some kids with burns, but the only one really being injured was his blazing wife. So, he lifted a gun and shot her. Then he shot one teacher before shooting himself.
That teacher recovered, as did all the students. Only two people died in the Cokeville standoff — David and Doris.
While this may sound like the sort of experience that would saddle every child there with a lifetime of trauma, many found themselves deeply inspired by what had gone down. They had prayed (“He can't stop us from praying, that's for sure,” thought one kid), and their prayers had been answered. Several students later reported having seen actual angels in the classroom, who warned them the bomb would go off and they should sit far back, near the windows. We have been unable to determine whether angels really did make themselves visible or whether that’s simply what you see after you spend several hours breathing gasoline fumes.