Crime

Kidnapped after church: Homeless captor sentenced after Coast man endured day of terror

A homeless man who terrorized a good Samaritan from Long Beach will spend the next 18 years in prison for armed robbery and kidnapping.

Circuit Court Judge Roger Clark sentenced Ernest Eugene Leffew, 47, after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to the charges, a news release from the District Attorney’s Office says. The news release does not name the victim.

The victim’s wife reported her husband missing to Long Beach police on Sept. 24, 2017, the news release says. She said her husband met Leffew in a church parking lot after Sunday services and agreed to take him to a laundromat to wash clothes. His wife expected him home afterward, but the victim missed a meeting Sunday afternoon at the church, which was unlike him.

Police took a report from the victim’s wife that afternoon and issued a missing person’s report for him and his vehicle. Investigators later determined that Leffew held the victim with a knife, stole his wallet and assaulted him, the news release says. He then tied the victim to a tree off Beatline Road.

Leffew eventually cut the rope and forced the victim to drive around, using his debit card to withdraw money at ATMs. The victim also was forced to drive to Walmart on U.S. 49, where he had to buy multiple cell phones and electronics for Leffew. The victim feared if he did not cooperate, Leffew would go to the victim’s house and injure his wife.

After they left Walmart, Leffew insisted they go to a Long Beach house, where Leffew bought drugs and picked up a woman.

The three then went to the Legacy Inn on Canal Road, where Leffew used the victim’s driver’s license to rent two rooms. Leffew then tied up the victim in one of the rooms, using a phone cord and electrical tape.

The victim managed to chew through the tape, untie the cord and find help, the news release says. The Harrison County Sheriff’s Office responded to the complaint of armed robbery and kidnapping late that night.

Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and Gulfport Police Department investigators found the victim’s stolen truck at a third hotel room rented in the victim’s name on U.S. 49. In the room, they found the items Leffew had forced the victim to buy. Leffew was located and arrested the next day.

“This defendant took advantage of a good Samaritan who was trying to help someone in need,” said Assistant District Attorney Mitch Owen, who prosecuted the case with ADA Patti Simpson. “The victim suffers from a series of work-related injuries he suffered in years past and it was obvious that Leffew was taking advantage of those disabilities.”

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