3 accused of kidnapping Duluth woman from funeral
Three people kidnapped a Duluth woman while she was attending a funeral, believing she had stolen a backpack containing money, and held her captive in her own apartment for several hours before she escaped to safety, according to authorities.
Charges against 32-year-old Kelly James Michael Jones of Duluth, 28-year-old Cheryl Catherinemae Lawson of Superior and 22-year-old Damian Harley Maher of Duluth include aiding and abetting kidnapping, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
The three were staying with Therasa Brissett, 45, at her apartment on the 1400 block of East First Street in January when the incident occurred, according to warrants filed in State District Court in Duluth.
Brissett told police she repeatedly was threatened and assaulted, including being choked and held at knifepoint, before she grasped an opportunity to run from the apartment and get a passer-by to call 911. The three defendants later were arrested on warrants and made their initial appearances in court last month.
According to the criminal complaints:
Brissett told police that she normally lives alone but had allowed the three defendants, and Lawson’s four juvenile children, to stay in her apartment on the night of Jan. 24.
The next morning, Brissett left to attend a funeral at the Cremation Society of Minnesota, 4100 Grand Ave. Jones and Lawson later arrived there unexpectedly and started asking her about a missing backpack.
When Brissett said she didn’t know anything about it, Jones grabbed her by the arm and led her to a van outside. As they traveled back to Brissett’s apartment, Jones sat with Brissett in the backseat.
Brissett told police that Jones threatened to shoot her ex-husband in the face and tie her kids to a bed and set fire to it if she tried to escape. She said Jones also held a knife to her throat and threatened to chop her ear off. He also took her purse and cellphone.
When they arrived at the apartment, Brissett said she screamed for help and tried to run up the stairs to a neighboring apartment, but Jones grabbed her by the throat with two hands and strangled her.
Maher then came out of Brissett’s apartment and helped Jones force her into the apartment, where she was shoved into a closet by the door. Brissett said Jones, Lawson and Maher took turns watching her so she could not leave. Lawson’s four children were also in the apartment.
The trio continued to threaten her and demand the return of the backpack and money, she said. The exact amount of the missing money was not immediately available.
At one point, Jones placed duct tape across Brissett’s mouth and taped her hands together. She said Jones and Maher attempted to shove her onto a hot stove, but she was able to get her feet on the oven door and push away from the burner.
Brissett said they then began destroying her apartment and hauling property outside.
During one of Maher’s turns guarding her, she noticed he had a handgun tucked in the front of his pants. About 2:30 p.m., when Maher temporarily was distracted, Brissett seized the opportunity to run out of the apartment. Outside, she happened upon a man who called 911 after she explained that she had been held hostage.
Arrest warrants were issued for Jones, Lawson and Maher on Feb. 21, and all three were taken into custody. In addition to kidnapping, all three defendants face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree assault.
Maher is next scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, Lawson on April 9 and Jones on May 23.