Hayden kidnapping suspects push for plea deals

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Two Hayden men accused of kidnapping a 17-year-old boy and threatening to shoot him in an alleged dispute about a stolen handgun waived their rights to a preliminary hearing Friday in Routt County Court. The men are working toward plea agreements, their attorneys say.

Joey Allen Vreeman, 22, and Kenneth Edward Muhme, 30, originally were charged with felony counts of second-degree kidnapping, menacing and robbery and misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief. Additional charges were added in December: four counts of felony aggravated robbery and two counts of crime of violence, which would trigger a mandatory prison sentence if they are found guilty.

Neither man has entered a plea, but their attorneys said Friday they are working out plea agreements with the District Attorney's Office.

Kris Hammond, who represents Vreeman, said plea negotiations have begun, but he declined to discuss any offers made to his client. It didn't make sense to go through Friday's scheduled preliminary hearing, Hammond said, because they aren't planning to take the case to trial.

Muhme's attorney, Larry Combs, said his client hopes to plead to felony menacing and have the rest of the charges dropped. As a Class 5 felony, menacing could be punishable by one to three years imprisonment.

Combs said that given the charges Muhme is facing, going to trial was just too risky.

"Kidnapping is just too dangerous of a charge to ignore," Combs said.

If convicted of kidnapping - the most serious crime each man is charged with - they could face eight to 24 years in prison on that charge alone.

In August, Vreeman reported a handgun stolen from his residence and indicated to the Hayden Police Department that he suspected the alleged kidnapping victim and another juvenile took it.

Vreeman and Muhme are said to have confronted the boy at a rest stop bathroom just east of the Moffat-Routt county line on U.S. Highway 40 on Sept. 5. After putting the boy in a chokehold, the two allegedly carried him out of the bathroom and put him in a vehicle after rifling through his pockets and taking cash, a pocket knife and sunglasses, according to sworn affidavits.

Vreeman then allegedly drove to Elkhead Reservoir, where he threatened to shoot the boy with a shotgun, according to sworn affidavits. During the drive, Muhme allegedly pulled a knife and threatened to use it if the boy "did something stupid," and repeatedly threatened to beat him with a sock full of quarters, the affidavits state.

Vreeman was arrested Sept. 5 by the Hayden Police Department. Muhme was arrested the following day by the Routt County Sheriff's Office. They were released from Routt County Jail on $20,000 bonds Sept. 8.

Muhme and Vreeman are due to appear for a plea hearing in Routt County District Court at 8:45 a.m. March 6.

- To reach Melinda Dudley, call 871-4203 or e-mail mdudley@steamboatpilot.com

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