Cape Girardeau kidnapping suspects appear in federal court to face charges

Abduction suspects in court in Cape Girardeau, MO
Published: Jun. 15, 2017 at 2:44 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2017 at 3:23 PM CDT
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Christopher Smith (Source: Ste. Genevieve Co. Sheriff's Office)
Christopher Smith (Source: Ste. Genevieve Co. Sheriff's Office)
(Source: Sherae Honeycutt, KFVS)
(Source: Sherae Honeycutt, KFVS)
John Czarnecki (Source: Ste. Genevieve Co. Sheriff's Office)
John Czarnecki (Source: Ste. Genevieve Co. Sheriff's Office)

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - The two men accused of kidnapping a woman in Cape Girardeau at knife-point made their first appearance in a Cape Girardeau federal courtroom on Tuesday, June 27.

John C. Czarnecki, 53, and Christopher Smith, 47, both waived their right to a detention hearing. Czarnecki and Smith will remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshal's until their trial is resolved.

Both men were arrested in Ellis County, Kansas on Friday, June 16.

The kidnapping happened on Wednesday, June 14.

Smith pleaded not guilty to the charges of kidnapping, robbery, and armed criminal action. His attorney said Smith is mentally ill and has not seen a doctor since his arrest. Smith's attorney said that every time Smith is scheduled to see a physician, he has been moved to a new facility.

Czarnecki did not enter a plea during his appearance on June 27. He was arraigned on Thursday, June 29 when he entered a plea of not guilty. A pretrial motion hearing was set for Sept. 14.

Both men are being held in the Ste. Genevieve County Jail.

Czarnecki has also been charged with murder in Georgia.

The Arrest

According to Deputy U.S. Marshal Brian Fielman, an informant told the U.S. Marshals Service that Czarnecki and Smith were on their way to Colorado to "smoke weed."

Investigators determined that the most direct route from Cape Girardeau to Colorado would be via Interstate 70 through Kansas, so five troopers with the Colorado State Highway Patrol and three U.S. Marshals set up at the border between Kansas and Colorado to wait for the pair.

A trooper in Kansas who was aware of the "Be on the Lookout" alert spotted a silver Suzuki that matched the suspect vehicle driving on Interstate 70 in western Kansas.

The SUV took an exit and stopped.

Fielman said one of the men, later identified as Czarnecki, jumped out and ran. Smith stayed in the car and was immediately arrested.

Investigators from several agencies searched for more than two hours and a K-9 was able to track Czarnecki about two blocks away. Officers found him hiding on the roof of a home about two blocks from where he jumped out of the SUV. Fielman said he was hiding behind a tree branch that was hanging over the roof.

According to Fielman, the men tried to change the appearance of their getaway vehicle. Initial reports were that they were driving a silver 1999 Suzuki Grand Vitara with North Carolina license plates EFK-7387. The men had removed the spare tire cover off the back of the SUV and swapped the North Carolina license plate with another plate.

Fielman said, "They were driving a vehicle that doesn't blend in very well."

According to VineLink, both men were initially booked at the Ellis County Sheriff's Department before they were transferred to the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department in Wichita.

Czarnecki and Smith both face Class A felony charges of kidnapping and robbery in the first degree and the unclassified felony of armed criminal action in Cape Girardeau.

A judge set their bond at $1 million cash only.

Murder in Georgia

Czarnecki now faces charges of murder and aggravated assault in Chamblee, Georgia.

According to a release from the Chamblee Police Department, officers went to a home there on Thursday, June15 as a follow-up to the abduction in Cape Girardeau.

The vehicle used in the kidnapping is registered to Abraham Jacobs who did not match the suspect description provided by the woman who was abducted. Officers believed Jacobs' vehicle had been stolen and may have been a victim of a crime.

Investigators tried to make contact with Jacobs at his apartment but were not successful.

Czarnecki had already been identified as a suspect in the kidnapping and was reportedly friends with Jacobs. Officers went to Czarnecki's apartment to see if he was home. When he didn't answer the door, officers got a search warrant for Czarnecki's apartment.

Investigators found Jacobs' body inside.

Czarnecki was also wanted by the U.S. Marshal Service for an outstanding probation violation warrant.

Cape Girardeau abduction, robbery

According to court documents, the victim said around 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 15, she left Walmart on William Street and walked to her vehicle. That's when she said she noticed a silver Suzuki SUV parked on the driver's side of her car with two people sitting inside.

The woman said she loaded her items in the back of her Jeep and closed the hatch. She then went around to the driver's side and that's when she said one of the men from the Suzuki approached her.

According to the woman, the man put a knife to her side and told her to give him her money. She told him she didn't have any money and that's when she said he demanded her debit card and told her to get into the back seat.

The woman said the man took her scarf off and tied her arms behind her back. She said he tried to start her vehicle, but couldn't figure out how. At one point, she said she honked her horn once and he told her if she honked her horn again he would hurt her.

According to the woman, another man came to her car and the older man went back to the Suzuki. She said the second man, later identified as Smith, tried to start her car and finally got it started.

She said she and the two men drove south and kept driving around for a while. She said her Jeep was following the Suzuki. After driving for a while, the woman said they ended up in Chaffee, Mo. and drove back to a corn field. Once they got there, she said the men got her out of the car and tied her hands together behind her back.

The woman said they took her car keys and phone and threw them in the brush. She said the men took her debit card and diamond wedding ring and left her there.

After about 10 minutes, she said she walked out of the corn field to the road and got help.

According to the probable cause statement, detectives learned the suspects had used the woman's debit card at a convenience store in Bloomsdale, Mo.

A "be on the lookout" alert was issued across the country as investigators worked to arrest the two men.

Sergeant Rick Schmidt with the Cape Girardeau Police Department said the victim is still recovering and there is no indication that she knew the suspects.

Officers used a drone and a helicopter to search the cornfield in Chaffee where the victim was found safe and unharmed.

According to police, the victim's employer called them around 8 a.m. the morning of the kidnapping when she didn't show up for work. Her employer said that was highly unusual.

Officers reviewed cell phone and banking records and video from nearby businesses and determined the woman had been abducted from the parking lot of Walmart.

Officers from the Cape Girardeau Sheriff's Department, Scott County Sheriff's Department, Chaffee Police Department, and Missouri State Highway Patrol are assisting Cape Girardeau Police in the investigation.

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