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Judge orders detainment for kidnapping suspects
Gary McDonald

The three Pembroke men who were charged in two separate incidents of kidnappings in Bryan County were denied bond Thursday.

According to First Assistant U.S. Attorney James Durham, Antonio Murray, Cecil Nelson and Gary McDonald were detained after going before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge G.R. Smith in Savannah for their bond hearing Thursday.

“The judge ordered them detained based on his finding that they posed a danger to the community and were a risk of flight,” Durham said Friday.

Murray, 38, Nelson, 32, and McDonald, 35, now await their hearing before a grand jury.

“In the federal system, once you’re arrested (for a criminal complaint) the (U.S.) Attorney’s Office has 30 days to present their case to a grand jury,” Durham said.

Federal criminal complaints were brought against the three earlier this week after they allegedly kidnapped two Bryan County residents and demanded ransom for their release.

The first incident occurred Dec. 1, when the victim was abducted at gunpoint and later released only after a ransom of about $19,000 was paid. The second incident was Jan. 12, when the victim was abducted at gunpoint and released only after a ransom of more than $250,000 was paid.

The maximum penalty for the kidnapping offense against all three defendants is life in prison. The federal complaint is only an accusation and is not evidence of guilt. The burden in any criminal case is on the government to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Brian T. Rafferty and Carlton R. Bourne Jr. are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

The charges resulted from a joint investigation by the FBI, multiple local and area law enforcement groups and other state and federal agencies.

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