Kidnapping couple

Jacquelyn Valdez and Maurice Edwards leave the Bennington Police Department on Tuesday evening. 

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BENNINGTON — A Massachusetts couple who hired an Uber driver to bring them up to Vermont as part of an alleged kidnapping and ransom exchange — after a drug transaction went bad — were arraigned at the Bennington Superior Courthouse on Wednesday.

Maurice Edwards, 31, and Jacquelyn Valdez, 30, both from Springfield, were arraigned in front of Bennington Superior Judge Kerry McDonald-Cady via video link. They are being held without bail on four counts: kidnapping with ransom, fentanyl trafficking, unlawful trespass into an occupied residence and cocaine possession. A fifth charge, extortion, was dismissed by McDonald-Cady for not having probable cause.

The kidnapping charge carries a possible life sentence and a minimum $50,000 fine. The three other charges combined carry maximum sentences of 38 years in prison if the pair are found guilty. Both pleaded not guilty through their respective attorneys.

According to a police affidavit, on Sept. 12 at 6:11 p.m., police were alerted by the victim’s boyfriend that drug dealers had kidnapped his girlfriend. The boyfriend told police that he had been selling drugs for individuals against his will for a few weeks in the Bennington area and owed the individuals money. The two individuals arrived at the boyfriend’s residence and, after roughing the boyfriend up, allegedly kidnapped the girlfriend and drove her down to Massachusetts, where she was held against her will for nearly two days until the boyfriend could come up with the $1,500 he allegedly owed the two drug suppliers.

Alerted to the situation, and with the help of the boyfriend, police set up a drop point for the girlfriend to be released in exchange for the money. Officers staked out the area around 260 Benmont Ave. in Bennington as the boyfriend waited for a vehicle coming from Springfield to arrive.

At about 1 a.m., a gray Ford Focus with Massachusetts plates showed up at the drop point with five individuals inside. Police then approached the vehicle. Two individuals jumped out of the back seat and ran behind an apartment complex. The girlfriend, also inside the back seat, was seen running from the vehicle with her boyfriend, both hiding near a stairwell, according to the affidavit.

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The two individuals in the front seats of the car, a female driver and a female passenger, did not flee. Both women were questioned at the scene by officers. Within a short period, both were deemed innocent Uber drivers who did not know they were part of the kidnapping plan. They were allowed to leave after giving statements.

Police then searched for the two fleeing individuals at an apartment complex on Benmont Avenue. At one of the apartments, they were met by a couple of residents who advised them that they believed the two individuals were hiding inside their apartment. Officers located the two, later identified as Edwards and Valdez, near the kitchen area. Both were arrested and taken to the Bennington Police Department for questioning.

Police secured permission to search the apartment after the owners located a fully-loaded .380-caliber magazine in their kitchen that did not belong to them. During the search, police found several items that did not belong to the apartment residents, including several phones, the .380-caliber handgun, several dozen bags of fentanyl, 22 grams of crack cocaine and 20 pills. Testing later confirmed the drugs and the weights.

The boyfriend, once at police headquarters, told his girlfriend — the kidnapping victim — to rip up her written statement to the police, which she did. He then informed police that they were leaving, calling the investigating officer an “[expletive] scumbag,” according to the affidavit.

Edwards and Valdez are being held without bail at the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland, pending a forthcoming weight of evidence hearing. They are barred from contacting each other or any other individuals involved in the kidnapping.


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