If the longest distance between two points is a kidnapper and his money, then four South Dakota kidnappers, apparently hot on revenge and scheming for their next meth fix, might as well have been running a marathon.
At sunrise on Sept. 22, the accused thieves allegedly forced a 66-year-old man at knifepoint from his apartment in Mitchell, South Dakota, and into his classic car before going joyriding for 19 miles until they found a field in cow country.
The crew then allegedly stripped the elderly man of his wallet, gold rings, and ultimately all of his clothes and stranded him like a barenaked scarecrow surrounded by endless acreage for over an hour before someone spotted him walking on a road and the cops were called.
On Sunday, the last of the suspected kidnappers, Vanessa Hakl, was picked up five hours away in Harvey, North Dakota.
According to the 36-year-old’s mother, the robbery may have been more about settling a score against the sexagenarian than simply fleecing him to feed their meth habit.
“From what I understand, he would go to her job and sexually harass her,” Sheila Hakl told The Daily Beast through tears.
After she learned of her daughter’s arrest Sunday, Hakl, a food server, said she hugged porcelain.
“I got the call yesterday and it made me puke,” she said. “Vanessa isn’t the typical criminal.
“My heart’s broke, my soul is broke, and I can’t believe my daughter did this.”
It was 6 a.m. on Sept. 22 when, according to police reports, authorities say Vanessa Hakl; Danica Loseke, 34; Alex Rock, 28; and Marco Sherman, 21, targeted their alleged victim’s apartment on East Third Avenue in Mitchell, South Dakota, and plucked him from his slumber, then drove off in his blue 1972 Buick Skylark.
The man, whom The Daily Beast is not naming, denied he wronged or even knew Hakl.
“That’s not true,” he said. “The first time I met her was that [morning]. I had not been bothering her.”
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The man confirmed that his car, as well as multiple gold rings and his wallet, were all swiped by the four accused. He also said he still feels shame after being forced to disrobe to his birthday suit.
“Everything, no clothes at all,” he admitted.
He couldn’t explain why the alleged thieves targeted him out of the town’s 15,000 or so residents. “If I knew, I’d tell you,” he said. “I don’t use drugs. I don’t know why they did it. I have no idea.”
But his denial is partially contradicted by Mitchell Police Department Det. Lt. Don Everson, who said Hakl “had met [the man] prior to that day.”
Everson, the lead investigator on the case, refused to expand when pressed, saying, “A trial is pending on all four of them.”
The alleged victim’s daughter, who didn’t give her name, reached out to The Daily Beast and said her father knew one of the four but that it wasn’t Hakl. “The only person he knew was one of them [who] went to school with my son,” she said.
A relative of alleged kidnapper Danica Loseke, who requested anonymity, told The Daily Beast it was no secret Loseke “was on drugs.”
Loseke apparently had been married and was raising a son before she got hooked on meth. It took over her life, the relative said, and Loseke found herself alone after getting divorced and losing custody of her child.
“I do know [her daughter] is safe and Danica has no more contact with her,” the relative said.
Authorities contend that Sherman, the youngest of the four alleged kidnappers, wielded the “sharp blade” against the man to get him out of his home and into his Skylark, where he was blindfolded by Rock before heading north. The four ditched the car, and cops managed to recover the man’s wallet.
Rock was picked up at his home, while cops found Sherman allegedly with drug paraphernalia on him while he was ducking a dragnet at a local Hardee’s restaurant parking lot in Mitchell, according to The Daily Republic.
Hakl, who had been on the lam since the alleged kidnapping and robbery, is expected to be moved to join her cohorts already in a lockup back in Davis County, where she will go before a judge and be arraigned.
All face first-degree kidnapping and robbery charges that could send them away to state prison for life.
Loseke, Rock, and Sherman have pleaded not guilty.
Sherman’s arrest has shaken his mother, who is struggling to make sense of her son’s and the authorities’ version of events. “He says he denies it, and he told me from jail, ‘It’s just they’re making up all stories,’” Sherri Sherman said, adding that her son was playing coy for fear their conversation was being tape-recorded. “He just told me, ‘Ma, I just didn’t do it.’”
She was hoping for a chance to speak to him without any threat of surveillance.
“If I could talk to Marco without him thinking that somebody’s listening in…” she said, before stopping herself. “I’m not saying that he would tell me the truth, but they’re saying Marco had a knife or razor in his hand, and that’s not Marco.”
The 72-year-old mother said she was familiar with Rock but was astounded to learn he was running around with those who had many years on him.
“I know nothing about any of the girls,” she said. “I’m shocked he was hanging out with people that much older than he is.”
And she believes her son, who was telling her he was only “drinking and smoking pot” before his arrest, is more about pleasure than pain.
“I see Marco using again and having fun and always laughing, and then having a good time,” she said. “But he wasn’t a violent person.”
Sherman is no shot-caller, either, she said.
“He’s always been a follower,” his mother said. “He stands behind people.”
The son she adopted when he was 3 struggled with a variety of behavior issues, she said, and despite his chivalrous ways started slipping from the straight and narrow, graduating from booze to marijuana and then methamphetamine, and relapsing after numerous rehab stints.
“Marco went with the kids who were the truancy and drug people,” she said. “Then he fell in with the wrong crowd… he’s been a good boy until he fell into this meth world.
“Even respectful when he was doing them,” she said of her son and his drug use.
The mother is still hoping for that chat in confidence with her son. Deep down, she said she is sure her son was manipulated to use his good for a bad cause.
“That sounds like Marco, going over there and sticking up for the girl,” she said, referring to Hakl’s purported payback after she claimed she was sexually harassed by the man they would later allegedly strip and ditch in the middle of nowhere. “Marco’s kind of a person that even if you’re his friend or girlfriend, if you were mistreated he would stand up for you.”