Man, 72, rescued after kidnapper's shopping spree

April 15, 1995|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Michael James contributed to this article.

An elderly Baltimore County man had nothing but praise yesterday for the efficiency of the police who rescued him from a Pikesville motel room just half an hour after he was bound to a chair with tape by a kidnapper.

The rescue ended a strange odyssey for 72-year-old Abel Abraham Caplan, who was forced at knifepoint to cash in his individual retirement account, buy thousands of dollars in clothes and jewelry for his kidnapper, and even go grocery shopping.

A recent parolee, hired as a live-in care provider for Mr. Caplan's wife two weeks ago, was in jail after the dramatic Thursday night scene at the Econo Lodge on Reisterstown Road, held in lieu of $200,000 bail.

The care provider, David J. Davy, 28, had gotten the job through a classified ad to care for Mr. Caplan's wife, Helene, 65, who is a quadriplegic with multiple sclerosis. He was to assist Mrs. Caplan while living in the family's Rockdale home in the 3400 block of Meadowdale Drive, with a salary of $230 a week, according to Mr. Caplan and his sons.

He had strong references that checked out, Mr. Caplan said.

But the references Mr. Davy provided did not include his criminal record. He was paroled March 6 after serving four years of a seven-year sentence for a handgun violation and three counts of credit card fraud, according to the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

According to the family and police, the drama began to unfold when Mr. Davy offered to take Mrs. Caplan to the nearby Liberty Cinema to see the movie "Richie Rich." She had not been to the movies for about 10 years, but was "very agreeable" to the idea, the family said.

To get her to the movie theater, he wrapped Mrs. Caplan in blankets and put her in the family van, according to Francis Robinson, who observed the departure from his house next door. "He even waved to me," the neighbor said.

He left her at the movie about 1 p.m., saying he would return in a few hours, according to Cpl. Kevin Novak, a county police spokesman.

Mr. Caplan, a part-time juvenile counselor in Baltimore, was not home. But he called from a restaurant to see how the day was going, and was told to come back right away because there was a problem.

On his arrival, Mr. Caplan said, he was asked, "You love your family, don't you?" He said he was told Mrs. Caplan was with another relative, and "if I wanted them to live or die, it was all strictly up to me."

Mr. Caplan said he went along with his captor, acting calm and relaxed but at times pretending to be sick to play for sympathy.

Brandishing a knife that belonged to Mr. Caplan, the kidnapper had Mr. Caplan take him to the T. Rowe Price office near the Owings Mills Town Center where he had an individual retirement account.

Mr. Caplan said the kidnapper told the investment firm's staff, "This is my grandpa, he's giving me some money for college." But they were told it was too late in the day for the $14,000 check to be issued -- that they would have to return the next day.

Their next stop was Metro Food Market back in the Rockdale neighborhood, in the 8200 block of Liberty Road. Anticipating an active day, the kidnapper "wanted snacks -- potato chips, grapes, stuff for snacking," Mr. Caplan said.

Police said $42 in food was purchased, with Mr. Caplan writing a check for $92 and receiving $50 in cash from the clerk.

The next stop was back in Owings Mills, where the kidnapper wanted to shop at Macy's -- using Mr. Caplan's credit card.

"He purchased everything that was expensive," Mr. Caplan said, including jewelry and "Calvin Klein clothing of various sorts, khakis. . . . All the while, I was wondering how my wife was doing."

The shopping spree amounted to about $3,000, all charged on the credit card, Corporal Novak said.

They finished up at the Pikesville Econo Lodge in the 400 block of Reisterstown Road, a motel for the budget-minded with rooms priced at about $40 and Mr. Caplan's credit card taking care of the bill.

"He had the courtesy [of offering] any snack I wanted," Mr. Caplan said. But the pleasantries ended when Mr. Caplan was taped to a chair.

"He apparently decided to hold him overnight to wait and collect the check" from T. Rowe Price, said police spokesman E. Jay Miller.

Mr. Caplan, overdue for his medication for Parkinson's disease, fell asleep in the chair. Less than a half-hour later, "the police burst into the room -- I've never seen such efficiency in my life," Mr. Caplan said.

In part, that efficiency was aided by a loose end in the scheme -- Mrs. Caplan, back at the movie theater.

Police were called by the theater manager at 5:05 p.m., reporting that an elderly woman in a wheelchair had been abandoned there.

Unable to reach the husband, police contacted a son, Howard Caplan of Arbutus, who met officers at the house on Meadowdale Drive. Mr. Caplan's Ford Escort was missing, the house ransacked, and three televisions, a microwave and several phones were gone, police said.

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