Three North Carolina men sentenced to prison for kidnapping of two victims

Published 5:16 pm Sunday, May 23, 2021

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Three Sampson County men were sentenced May 19 to a total of 916 months in prison, collectively, for the kidnapping and torture of two victims, one under the age of 18, according to a press release from the Department of Justice, Eastern District of North Carolina.

On August 26, 2020, Ethan Gabriel Autry, 21, pleaded guilty to one charge of aiding and abetting kidnapping. On December 17, 2020, Leonard Edward Wilson, III, 23, and Isaiah Jeremiah Fennell-Best, 21, pleaded guilty to one charge of aiding and abetting kidnapping.

According to court documents and other information presented in court, Autry, Wilson and Fennell-Best, along with other co-conspirators, lured the two victims into Autry’s apartment in downtown Clinton over a disputed debt.

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“After locking them inside the bedroom, Autry, Wilson, and Fennell-Best engaged in a three-hour ‘torture session,’ holding the victims at gunpoint and physically beating them with objects. During this time, Autry, Wilson, and Fennell-Best made phone calls to the victims’ family, demanding a ransom,” stated the release. “After the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office and Clinton Police Department were notified, authorities underwent an operation resulting in the safe recovery of the victims and the capture of Autry, Wilson, and Fennell-Best.”

The investigation later showed the firearms Fennell-Best and Wilson used during the kidnapping were the same firearms the men used to shoot into a residence on Byrd-Yancey-Bass Road less than 24 hours prior, where Fennell-Best and Wilson shot several rounds of ammunition into an occupied home, hitting two victims, stated the release.

“As a result of their actions from this short period of time in October of 2019, the Court sentenced Autry to 274 months’ imprisonment; Wilson to 306 months’ imprisonment; and Fennell-Best to 336 months’ imprisonment,” the release continued. “As the Court noted, these extensive sentences reflected the horrific nature of these crimes and the need to protect the public this type of behavior.”

G. Norman Acker III, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after sentencing by Chief U.S. District Judge Richard E. Myers II. The Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, Clinton Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and District Attorney’s Office for the Prosecutorial District 5 assisted with the investigation of the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney J.D. Koesters prosecuted.



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