Kidnap Victim Saved After Slipping Note To Walmart Employee

Bentonville police say a kidnapping and murder plot was foiled Saturday after the victim gave a note to a Walmart employee saying she was being kidnapped by two members of the National Guard.

Michael Lee Roberts, 24, was arrested Monday on suspicion of aggravated kidnapping, felony kidnapping, intimidating a witness and coercion. His suspected accomplice, Theron Alan Vance, 21, was arrested the same day on suspicion of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder.

The suspects are being held in the Benton County Jail without bond, according to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

Police said Roberts and Vance conspired to kidnap and kill a Texas woman before she escaped from them in Bentonville.

A Dallas woman named Yulu Zhang told police Roberts and Vance kidnapped her from her Texas home and transported her to Bentonville. While at a Walmart Supercenter in Bentonville, Zhang slipped a note written on a napkin to an employee asking for help, according to a probable cause affidavit released by the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office.

Responding officers found Zhang still in the restroom and later arrested the suspects following an investigation, according to the affidavit.

The victim told police she was attacked by her ex-boyfriend Roberts while she was walking into her apartment. He grabbed her by the throat and was accompanied by Vance, who identified himself as an FBI agent named “Noah Vince,” police said. The woman said Roberts smashed his forearm against her mouth and placed her on her roommate’s bed.

Roberts then told Zhang she could either go with him or he would kill her. Zhang packed two suitcases and some personal belongings and left a note for her roommate she was leaving for China to visit a sick family member, as instructed by the suspect, the affidavit states.

Zhang also secretly left a note in the refrigerator saying, “Call 911.”

While still in the Dallas area, the three people stopped at a Chinese fast-food restaurant, where Zhang said she used a makeup pen to write a note on one of the restaurant’s napkins in hopes someone who call police after finding it.

The group left town and later stopped at a gas station in Eufaula, Oklahoma, where police said Zhang left a note saying she had been kidnapped by Roberts and leaving the license plate number of the vehicle she was in. Someone later found the note and called law enforcement.

The victim and two suspects arrived in Bentonville 2:30 a.m. Saturday and stayed at Roberts’ local home for the rest of the night, the affidavit states.

The next day, they ate at a Sushi King restaurant and stopped at the Walmart where police said Zhang slipped a note to employee Carly Dodge in the women’s restroom.

Sarah Hepler lives next door to Roberts’ home in Bentonville.

“It’s really crazy finding out that something like this is happening right next door to you,” she said.

Hepler said her children played with Roberts’ roommate’s kids. She said she’s only seen Roberts a few times.

“You know, he would be out and he’d be around the kids and talking to everyone,” she said.  “We never really though about him like that, because he was always just known as the roommate that came and went randomly.”

Richard Morales lives just two doors down from Roberts. He said something like this happening in his neighborhood is scary.

“It’s just kind of really out of the ordinary,” he said.

Zhang said she met and started dating Roberts in 2012 while at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. The two broke up after Zhang found out Roberts was cheating on her, she told police. The victim later moved to Dallas for a job, but was visited and threatened by Roberts on at least three occasions, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Police previously gave Roberts a trespass warning, after which the suspect allegedly pulled a kitchen knife on Zhang at a train station parking lot. In another police report against Roberts, Zhang said Roberts went to China and met up with her parents, threatening to hurt them if she testified against him in the knife case.

Roberts and Vance told Zhang they kidnapped her to stop her from testifying against Roberts, according to the probable cause affidavit.

“They were going to keep her until the court proceedings were over,” the affidavit states. “Zhang said Michael (Roberts) was also trying to reconcile their relationship, and she said she cooperated with him because she was in fear.”

Police captured Roberts in Bentonville after finding him walking along a roadway near his local home. With Zhang’s consent, authorities in Dallas searched her apartment and discovered blood on the floor and her notes she left, the affidavit states.

Police said they searched Roberts’ Bentonville home and found Zhang’s suitcase and Asian money on a TV stand. Investigators also talked to Roberts’ roommate, Jason Petit, who said Roberts told him he was heading to see an ex-girlfriend in Dallas and that Roberts was going to “take care of it,” according to the probable cause affidavit.

The affidavit states the roommate went on to tell police Roberts spoke often about Zhang and “was talking ‘crazy,’ stating that Zhang had caused problems with (Roberts) and his family and he wanted to do something to ‘fix it.’

Roberts cussed often while talking about Zhang and told his roommate he was planning on how to go to Dallas and kill her, the affidavit states the roommate told police. The roommate said Vance started to come over to the home and the two created a plan. Roberts told his roommate last week that as of last Thursday, “it would all be taken care of.”

Petit, the roommate, also said he called Roberts’ mother using the suspect’s phone to help him establish in alibi.

“The plan was to make it look like Roberts was at home during the time frame Zhang was murdered or kidnapped in Dallas,” the probable cause affidavit states.

Petit said Roberts was afraid of losing his career in the National Guard if he was to be convicted on the charges he faced in Texas in connection to the knife case.

Police later apprehended Vance after obtaining an arrest warrant.

23 comments

  • Sarah 1

    Correct me if I am in error but isn’t the room mate guilty of not notifying the authorities?
    Smart woman Zhang!

  • D

    This is why I train the public in Awareness and Self defense classes based on Military, and police training

  • Daniel Friedman

    I was this solider’s team leader while I served in the national guard some years ago, also knew him from school years prior to that. I didn’t ever like this guy, something about his character would always just bug me. He thought he was a hot shot and a tough guy, but would quite down in the presence of real soldiers. He was a self centered, very arrogant, and a coward. Frankly, I am surprised that he even had it in him try to do something like this, because he was usually an “all talk” type of guy. Then again, he was targeting a female, in her home, by surprise, with an accomplice. Not really a test of bravery. If there could be a way that he could see this, I would want him to know. I now regret sustaining from conducting private “wall to wall” counseling with him. I feel like I let him and everyone he has harmed down by not physically correcting this boys sense of being a “man”.

    • Angel

      Man don’ t beat yourself up. sometimes there just is no help for someone like that. No amount of teaching or counseling could have fixed him.

    • Army Parent

      I trust if you felt that way about his character that you had the character to address the issue with your superiors. Cowards do not belong in the National Guard. Superiors are tasked with keeping an eye out for their men and this includes notifying higherups when and if you have reason to doubt a soldier’s character. Character is the greatest weapon any soldier has and our National Guard is well-armed notwithstanding the occasional exception.

  • Angel

    I honestly do not know what has gone wrong with people. I could tell this guy wasn’t right by his picture, long before I read the article. Daniel Friedman, don’t beat yourself up too much, chances are it wouldn’t have mattered if you had that wall to wall with him, he might have killed her outright instead of just kidnapping her. These people aren’t predictable and he will hopefully get what he deserves.

  • Tyler Boyd

    Daniel don’t blame yourself. As a Marine from Rogers I know how you feel. It’s a dishonor to the uniform we wear everyday. Hopefully he will get brig time instead of civilian prison.

  • anonymous

    As a family member of his, you all are wrong. Not one of you knows him. People are so quick to judge. In case you all don’t know the laws “innocent until proven guilty.” People makes mistakes. I do know he has always been a sweet, loving guy that loves hard. To the person who said something wasn’t right by his picture..are u kidding me? That’s all you got. And the guy in the army…talk about being all talk and a hot shot. You don’t do or say anything until this happens. That’s all.

    • Arkansas guard member

      I’ve know Theron since the day he enlisted and I am surprised by his actions. I also know he was recently extremely sick and they didn’t know if he would make it. And I know before that he told some people he was a SSG and was going to Japan and I was contacted by an NCO from the armory in Rogers near where he lived and was asked a few questions about him and what unit he was in, I was honestly disappointed that happened but by far more disappointed about this situation

    • Linda Linda listen

      “He’s a sweet loving guy that loves hard” …I know you were trying to defend him but if someone is being accused of plotting a kidnapping/murder of an ex, I’m pretty sure you might want to leave the “loves hard” part out if you talk to the cops.

      Dude is WHACK. Period.

      • anonymous

        I’m not here to go back and forth with anyone, but I do want to ask why you feel the need to talk s••• about someone you don’t know. He’s “whack?” How so? He’s only accused of this. No trial yet. Not only that but not everything you hear and read is not true. P.S. I love hard too. Know lots of people who do. :-)

      • Faith

        I think your love for your family member and past experiences with him is clouding your judgement. I agree innocent until proven guilty BUT. The people who commented above where sharing their personal experience and first hand knowledge of him and they are entitled to their opinion just like you are. The things he did that they have concrete proof of are clear indication that he is a danger to himself and/or others. It shows that he has been for quite some time. Thank God it was stopped before it may have escalated into something far worse than what it already has. There is a difference between loving hard and loving wrong and if these were his actions then he does need serious help. Trying to excuse it or explain it away won’t help him it will hurt him. Acknowledging that does not make you any less devoted or loving family member if anything it shows just how dedicated you are for standing beside him and encouraging him to accept his consequence, get help , and take whatever steps necessary to fix whatever was broken. No one is condemning him for life we are just saying hey there are a lot of red flags here something has to be done!

      • anonymous

        Faith I don’t know if you’ll read this, but I REALLY appreciate you not being harsh and your understanding. I’m not saying his actions are ok by any means. My heart breaks for this girl, but at the same time we are a close family and my heart breaks at what he’s facing. Also breaks to see all these people who don’t know him or claim to have an experience with him after the fact (but did nothing about it, so obviously it wasn’t that bad) say bad things about my lifelong close family member that I love. Of course my blood boils because I love him no matter what. Like above person said, shocked but he knew better. I believe 100% that he was all talk like his previous encounter said. I believe he wanted to intimidate her (which is very bad too) and nothing more. Anyway, I could go on and on but I’ll stop there. For now ;-)

    • Arkansas guard member

      I hope my comment didn’t come off as offensive to you. It wasn’t meant to be. We rode the bus to drill together for 6 months and I use to give him a ride home after we got home from drill . We spent quite a bit of time together before either of is went to basic training. After that I saw him once in awhile and was asked about him by the NCO at the old armory. I spent over an hour talking to his grandfather about him being sick with, if I remember correctly, pneumonia. And everytime I saw his grandfather after that I asked about him. I’m just very disappointed in the situation entirely. I found out about this because I am friends with Petitt’s wife whom with he is separated and when I looked up the story for more info I saw Theron was involved and was, quite frankly, in utter disbelief.

      • anonymous

        Our grandpa has been dead for a long time. Died of cancer. No it didn’t offend me. I’m in complete disbelief as well. Heart broken. I hope people before commenting remember he’s not convicted yet. There are a lot of discrepancies and things not mentioned in the above story. I’m not saying BC I don’t know if I’m allowed… If it was your family member or close friend people would feel the same.

  • somebody

    I knew Theron and when I saw his picture on the news I’m heart hit the floor. I would never thought that he would do something that stupid. I don’t feel sorry for him he knew better.

  • Noxana

    Somebody, if you truly know Theron, than you should know that he cares deeply for his friends and would do anything to protect them. After seeing this, I was afraid for him, and mourn for him because of all the friends that are deserting him because of this, even someone who he loved deeply and wanted to share his life with. I came across this from a Facebook posting on his homepage just an hour ago, but no matter what I couldn’t cry about it because I have no tears left. He has lost too much, and so I feel he didn’t want to lose his friend Robert as well to this.

    Also, if it is at all possible, could I get into contact with anyone who knows Theron well? I really need to talk to someone about this.

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