A botched kidnapping, in Lee County, started like an episode of Fargo, the television show based on the film, by the same name, by Joel and Ethan Coen.
It ended with two would-be extortionists cooling their heels in the Lee County Jail with plenty of time to go over their failed plot.
The crime began, as most crimes do, with a 911 call. The parents of Andrew Blake Hawks called saying their son had been kidnapped, and the son was being held hostage in Lee County. 911 contacted the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.
“911 was a huge asset to this case, as they are many times, with the resources they have,” said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson.
The call came in Aug. 13, about midnight, by the dad, who lived in Virginia, about his son possibly being kidnapped.
It was reported that he received a Facetime call that showed his son being tied up against a tree with a gun to his head.
“After that initial call, it was constant calls or text messages for about twelve hours,” Johnson said.
The man, supposedly holding the victim, demanded money in exchange for the son’s life.
“When they demanded $500 from the dad, he basically said ‘I don’t have the money’ and they just kept demanding to be paid,” Johnson said. “Our investigator was talking directly to the family and the family was sending him the exact message they were getting from the kidnapper and the son.”
At that point, an investigation began to find his son, Andrew. At one point when the alleged kidnapper did not get his money, by the deadline, a gunshot was heard and the father was led to believe someone just shot and killed his son.
As the investigation continued, law enforcement learned Hawks didn’t have a record in Lee County, but he did have some criminal background in Virginia.
A short time afterward the kidnappers again contacted the father threatening to cut his son's fingers off one at a time until their demands were met, and money was sent.
“Finally, the kidnappers said ‘send us $200, like a payment, that way you don’t have to send it all at once,’” Johnson said.
These conversations continued throughout the day. As the day went on investigators became suspicious, that this might not be an actual kidnapping, but due to the situation, it had to be further investigated.
“We took over the conversation, without letting the kidnappers know, and suggested a Western Union location for them to pick up the money,” Johnson said. “We actually set up stakeouts at two Western Union locations.”
Stakeouts may be in a car or secreted in another spot for an extended period of time while law enforcement watch either with the naked eye, binoculars, or video camera.
“You’ve got to remember we did not know what the person (kidnapper) looked like. We stopped several individuals, who fit the description,” Johnson said. “It was funny because at one of the Western Union places this guy, who fit the description, came out. We approached him, he had the Western Union envelope in his hand and he looked startled. We asked him who he was? and he said, ‘I’m so and so, I’m on probation with the department of corrections and I’m making a payment.’”
By now the Lee County Sheriff’s Department was almost certain the whole kidnapping thing was fake.
“We knew, or had a good idea, that it was the son. We also knew it would be him picking up the money. We were at this other store, and we were almost certain the son was inside, so we paged him over the intercom and he came up and that’s how we caught him,” Johnson said.
Hawks was immediately taken into custody. His accomplice, David Fisher Jr., was in the store shopping and was called to the front office where he was also arrested without incident.
“The Fisher guy (who lived in Guntown) is very well known to us for drug activity. We believe this Virginia guy owed Fisher for some drugs, so this was why they devised this plan,” Johnson said. “That was the connection. It was a failure to pay for drugs.
“But let me tell you — he was wearing a mask, so he was in compliance.” The sheriff laughed.
Hawks, 24, was charged with extortion and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, with a bond of $150,000.
Fisher, 36, was charged with extortion, with a bond of $100,000. Both remain in the Lee County Jail.
If you have additional information about this crime, please call (662) 841-9040.