Threats against her and her children caused a Lawrence woman to cooperate with a November kidnapping plot, she told a Douglas County judge on Friday.
Pamela Arnold described how she watched as Berlon Muse and two women abused and threatened Muse's girlfriend, Ashley Houk, over a 15-hour period. Houk was kept against her will in an apartment in the 2500 block of Redbud Lane because she stole $1,700 from Muse, according to two days of testimony in a preliminary hearing before Judge Jack Murphy.
Muse, 27, Runita J. Bell, 32, and Annetta D. Moten, 40, face kidnapping charges for allegedly keeping not only Houk but also Arnold, her two children and another woman, Norma Carver, in the apartment.
During earlier testimony, Houk said she stole Muse's money because she wanted to buy crack cocaine. She said Arnold and Carver tricked her into going to their apartment where Muse was waiting for her. Muse allegedly struck Houk in the head and threatened her with a gun.
According to Houk and Arnold, Bell struck Houk's fingers three times with a meat tenderizer and a claw hammer in an attempt to get Houk to tell what she did with the money. Arnold said she was forced to get the claw hammer and give it to Bell.
"I was scared," Arnold said, explaining why she cooperated. "I didn't want that to happen to me."
Later, Bell and Muse left the apartment to go look for a man named Mo, who Houk said stole the money from her. Arnold was left with Carver and Moten in the apartment. Muse told Arnold not to let Houk leave.
"He got in my face and said she (Houk) was not to leave or he'd kill me and my two children," Arnold said.
That threat was backed up by Moten, Arnold said.
"He's a very dangerous man. He would definitely follow through with what he said," Arnold quoted Moten as telling her.
Several hours later Moten and Arnold were outside the apartment when Houk ran away.
"Oh, well, I'll get her later," Arnold quoted Muse as saying when he returned and found out Houk was gone.
Assistant District Attorney Trent Krug has more witnesses to call and the hearing was continued to 9:30 a.m. Feb. 1. Murphy must decide whether there is enough evidence to try Muse, Bell and Moten.