FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM)- A Bentonville man, who is one of three men accused of kidnapping a woman in Texas and bringing her to Northwest Arkansas, pleaded guilty in federal court Friday (Oct. 31).
Jason Petit, 25, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, according to court documents. The other suspects in the case are Michael Roberts, 24, of Rogers and Theron Vance, 22, also of Rogers, court documents show. Both also had been in the National Guard.
According to court documents, on June 12, Roberts and Vance traveled from Northwest Arkansas to Dallas where they assaulted and kidnapped Yulu Zhang at her apartment and brought her to Bentonville. While in the restroom 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.
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.
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According to court documents, Petit told detectives he was Roberts’ roommate and admitted that a month prior to Roberts and Vance traveling to Dallas, they began planning to abduct and kill Zhang. Petit also admitted to using Roberts’ cell phone and debit card during the time period the victim was being kidnapped to make it look like Roberts never left Northwest Arkansas.
Petit will be sentenced at a later date. He is facing a maximum sentence of life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
According to court records, Roberts’ jury trial has been cancelled and his change of plea hearing is scheduled for the morning of Nov. 3, while Vance’s pretrial hearing is scheduled for the morning of Nov. 7. Both hearings will be held in federal court in Fayetteville.