A Texas man was convicted last week of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend from Las Vegas earlier this year in a violent abduction that was reportedly part of a larger plot to “brainwash her” in a cave in New Mexico, PEOPLE confirms.
Jack Morgan, 32, of Arlington, was found guilty in federal court on Dec. 19 of one count of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
Morgan, who faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, is scheduled to be sentenced on March 20.
He and his 19-year-old accomplice, Sophie Brown, had stalked the 28-year-old victim (including concocting ways to learn where she lived) before abducting her, according to arrest reports obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
They were traveling to the cave in New Mexico, with the victim chained in their van, when they were stopped by authorities in late January, less than a day after the kidnapping.
One of the two abductors — apparently Morgan — planned to “brainwash [the victim] to be his wife,” according to these police documents. (Las Vegas police did not return a call and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.)
The woman was found with chains around her body and handcuffs around her wrists. She later told investigators that, while she was a captive, Brown told her that they had been planning the kidnapping for “approximately a year and three months.”
“He [Morgan] did say he built a cave out there,” Dustin Marcello, a defense attorney who acted as Morgan’s advisory counsel because he was representing himself, tells PEOPLE. “He told the jury it was more about working with your hands and being in a natural environment, doing physical labor. A spiritual thing.”
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According to federal documents obtained by PEOPLE, the victim was kidnapped from her third-floor Las Vegas apartment around 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 30.
A witness told Vegas police that the victim, who was only wearing her underwear, was dragged and shoved into a white van with Texas plates.
The witness also said the woman’s wrists were handcuffed and her feet were bound together with chains. Morgan allegedly had his arm around the victim’s neck and the witness believed Morgan was choking the woman as he dragged her down the apartment steps.
Police later found signs of a struggle and an electronic touch stun device and a knife near the front door of the victim’s apartment.
Marcello says Morgan used a pick axe to carve out the cave. “They [law enforcement] said it had an identifiable three separate areas in it. There was food in there, there was some alcohol. It was about half a mile or three quarters of a mile off of the highway. You had to walk to get to it.”
It took the jury less than 20 minutes to reach a verdict, Marcello says. He says Morgan believed that by kidnapping the woman, he was saving her life — a bizarre rationale that did not persuade the jury.
“There were a number of concerning things that he [Morgan] felt she was engaged in that would ultimately result in injury to her mortal soul,” Marcello says. “He presented what he felt was his reasoning behind what he did. And the jury disagreed.”
“He basically said, ‘I did everything the prosecution submitted,’ ” Marcello says. “[Morgan] felt he had a paramount responsibility [to go through with the abduction], and at the end of the day it was more a greater good that he proceed.”
Soon after the abduction, Vegas police put out an alert for information about the van in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. New Mexico State Police officers stationed in Española spotted the van traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 84 and pulled it over about 12 hours later.
Officers searched the van and discovered the victim in the vehicle’s rear cargo area, where she had “visible injuries.”
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The woman told police that Morgan had wrapped a full roll of duct tape around her neck several times, across her face and on her hair and tried to hogtie her. She said he choked her around six times and chained her neck to a wheel well inside the van.
Brown pleaded guilty in November to one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, the Review-Journal reports. Her sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 21.
Brown’s attorney, Joshua Tomsheck, tells PEOPLE that his client has shown remorse for the part she played in the abduction.
Tomsheck says Morgan believed that “the victim and my client are both his wives and he is a messenger of God of some sort.”
“One thing that she expressed from the moment I began representing her is her remorse for what the victim went through,” Tomsheck says of Brown, “and there was certainly a sense of relief that the victim wasn’t harmed more than she was.”