LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Four people were charged Wednesday with kidnapping a man and taking him to a state park in Kentucky’s Appalachian region, then severely beating him while yelling slurs about his sexual orientation.
The FBI arrested 37-year-old David Jason Jenkins of Cumberland, 20-year-old Anthony Ray Jenkins and 19-year-old Alexis Leann Combs Jenkins of Partridge and 19-year-old Mable Ashley Jenkins and charged them with kidnapping and aiding a kidnapping.
The charges stem from an incident on April 4, 2011, when, the FBI said, the four took the man against his will into Kingdom Come State Park near Cumberland in Harlan County and beat him until he escaped.
Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lexington, said the kidnapping charge carries a maximum of life in prison and that the investigation is ongoing. Prosecutors have 30 days to bring the case before a grand jury.
Attorney Michael Murphy, who represents Alexis Jenkins, said he was assigned the case this morning and hadn’t digested all of the details in the FBI’s affidavit. But, Murphy also wondered about the time elapsed between the alleged attack and the federal charges.
“Why, after all this time, has the federal government come in and charged them now?” Murphy said.
Attorney James Hibbert, who represents Mable Jenkins, declined comment. Messages left for the attorneys for David Jenkins and Anthony Jenkins, were not immediately returned Wednesday.
Activist Jordan Palmer who also founded the Kentucky Equality Federation, a civil rights group, pushed to have the four charged under a 2009 federal hate crimes law.
“We wanted this in federal court where the judges are appointed, not elected, so they don’t have to keep a portion of the population happy,” said Jordan Palmer, executive director of the group.
FBI Special Agent Anthony M. Sankey indicated in an affidavit that the investigation started out as one into a hate crime because of sexual orientation, but that the four have only been charged with kidnapping.
David and Anthony Jenkins were initially charged in state court with attempted murder, while Alexis and Mable Jenkins were charged with complicity to attempted murder. Anthony and Mable Jenkins are siblings. It was not immediately clear how, or if, they were related to David Jenkins and Alexis Jenkins.
Harlan County Commonwealth Attorney Henry Johnson said the March 27 trial in state court for the four will be called off and the charges likely dropped now that federal authorities have stepped in. Johnson said it made sense to let the case go federal because the potential penalties are greater.
“I’ve been aware of the fact that there was an investigation going on, and the federal authorities have been very thorough in their investigation on this,” Johnson said.
Sankey said the man went for a ride with the four, but asked to be taken home after a few minutes. The group told the man they planned to go to Kingdom Come State Park near Cumberland in Harlan County, then return home.
The man told investigators that David Jenkins asked and then demanded a sexual favor from him, which was refused, Sankey wrote. Then, the man said, David Jenkins threatened to violently rape him, Sankey said.
Sankey wrote that the truck stopped in the park because a tree had fallen across the road and Anthony and David Jenkins pulled the man out of the truck, then hit and kicked him while “making anti-homosexual statements.”
“During the attack (the victim) was covering his face and they were all screaming `how do you like this faggot?”‘ Sankey wrote. “Ashley yelled `yeah that what you like queer were gonna kill your … now’.”
In hand-written statements to police in April 2011, each of the four acknowledged having the man in the truck that night, and three of the four implicated David Jenkins as the instigator of the attack in those statements. Authorities said David Jenkins pointed to Anthony Jenkins as the one who began the attack, saying he only joined in after it had started. None of the four uses any anti-gay slurs in the statements.
Mable Jenkins said in her statement that David Jenkins got out of the truck when it stopped and “starts beating the crap out of the boy.”
“So me, Anthony and Alexis get (David) off of him and get him in the truck and he jumps out again and starts hitting him again and finally we get in the truck and leave,” Mable Jenkins wrote.
The man escaped when Anthony and David Jenkins went back to the truck to discuss getting a tire iron, Sankey wrote. After hiding behind some rocks for about 20 minutes, the man saw the truck drive away and made his way to a ranger station, Sankey added. Unable to locate a ranger, the man broke into the station and called 911.
Later, Sankey wrote, David Jenkins told an acquaintance in a recorded phone call that Anthony Jenkins initiated the attack on the man, but said he was beaten with “our fists,” and that Anthony Jenkins disliked the man because he was “a faggot.”
The man suffered injuries to his chest, head, back, face, neck and ear. The man was treated at a hospital and later released. Palmer said the man has access to counseling and is “doing better than he was.”
“He was afraid for his life,” Palmer said.