Local police say they caught a married couple from Texas who kidnapped an Akron man for ransom.

Authorities were interrogating the suspected kidnappers Monday to piece together the bizarre crime of a North Hill man abducted at gunpoint from an East Akron bar, then held for 12 hours at gunpoint in Barberton where he was found unharmed Sunday afternoon. Officers foiled the crime before a scheduled cash drop in Kenmore in exchange for the victim.

Police say the 46-year-old kidnapping victim went to a bar in the 1200 block of South Arlington Street in Akron on Saturday evening to meet an old acquaintance, Nicole Gaither, 47. A mutual friend had set up the reunion between the two, who dated 12 years ago.

When the victim left the bar at 1 a.m., police said, a man later identified as Ronnie Gaither, 50, brandished a gun and kidnapped the North Hill man.

Around 7 a.m. Sunday, a ransom message was texted from the victim’s phone to the victim’s brother. The instructions said bring cash to a meeting place on East Avenue in Kenmore.

Police were notified of the kidnapping at 8 a.m. “Through investigative techniques,” officers traced the kidnappers' general whereabouts to a neighborhood in East Barberton.

The Gaithers, who live in Texas but are from Akron, were in town to pack up and move Nicole's daughter and grandchildren to Texas, according to police. Instead, authorities say Nicole's daughter's house was used to stage an aggravated kidnapping. The daughter and her family were not at the Barberton residence during the alleged crime, police said.

After settling on a general area to patrol, Barberton police picked up Nicole Gaither at a nearby gas station. She had the couple's vehicle, leaving Ronnie Gaither to await her return.

Questioning led police to the house near First Street in the 200 block of Tuscarawas Avenue.

Police arrived at 1 p.m. Sunday as Ronnie Gaither led the victim out the back door. Gaither then fled on foot and was apprehended next door, police said.

The Gaithers were charged with kidnapping, abduction and aggravated robbery. Additional charges are possible.

Capt. Dave Laughlin with the Akron Police Department said the Gaithers could be a flight risk if released. He added that it's not uncommon to see gun-involved kidnappings end in tragedy. "You don't always expect an outcome like this where the victim is alive," Laughlin said.

 

Reach Doug Livingston at dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3792.