Missouri contractor charged in bungled New Jersey kidnapping

Sunday, February 7, 2010 | 7:29 p.m. CST; updated 7:56 p.m. CST, Sunday, February 7, 2010

NEVADA, Mo. — Kidnappers abducted a New Jersey resident thinking he was another man with the same name in a bungled effort to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars on behalf of a Missouri contractor, according to court documents.

Roy A. Slates, 55, who allegedly sought assistance in retrieving some $400,000 he lost in a Utah construction project, faces charges of concealing a felony and hindering prosecution, according to documents filed Thursday in the Vernon County Circuit Court.

The Joplin Globe reported he was arrested the same day but posted $5,000 bond and was released.

No attorney was listed for Slates in online court records, and his number was unlisted.

Authorities say the Nevada contractor concealed his involvement in last month's abduction of pet store owner Jeffrey Muller outside his Newton, N.J. store, and a November home invasion in western Missouri that allegedly precipitated the mistaken-identity kidnapping.

Three men charged with kidnapping have been accused of driving Muller nearly 1,200 miles before he was rescued when they encountered car trouble in the Missouri town of Lake Ozark.

Vernon County Sheriff Ron Peckman said it all started when Slates was at a bar with Douglas Stangeland — one of the kidnapping suspects — and he complained that he had lost $400,000 in the construction deal with a man named Jeffrey Muller.

Stangeland then approached William Barger, the self-professed head of a motorcycle gang, Peckman said.

According to the probable-cause affidavit, Barger struck a deal with Slates to try to get his money back for a 25 percent share of whatever was recovered.

Peckman said that deal led to a November invasion of the home of a construction business owner who also was involved in the deal in which Slates lost money. Investigators allege in court records that the three kidnapping suspects were involved in the home invasion and that the business owner was shot in the hand and questioned about a man named Jeffrey Muller.

Authorities said Slates denied knowing anything about the home invasion in December but admitted in an interview a couple weeks later to his role in the scheme.

"I guess when they came up with their big plan he was all for it," Peckman said. The affidavit alleges that he gave Barger $10,000 to finance a trip to New Jersey, which became a prelude to Muller's abduction.

But Peckman said Slates insisted that after the home invasion, he told the other suspects he wanted out of the deal. Slates told authorities he didn't want anybody to get hurt and didn't know they planned to invade the construction business owner's home.

The Joplin newspaper reported that the Jeffrey Muller, who was the intended target, remains a shadowy figure in the two-state investigation.

Peckman, the Vernon County sheriff, said he has been told where the "right Muller" is. The sheriff declined to say whether that Muller has been questioned by any investigators.

No attorney was listed for Barger in online court records, and calls made to the office of Stangeland's attorney, Nicholas Swischer, were unanswered Sunday.

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