By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TAYLOR — A man prosecutors called the “puppet master” of a kidnapping scheme was convicted Wednesday of charges including unlawful imprisonment and vulnerable adult abuse.
Alfred Khattar, according to assistant prosecuting attorney Scott Ehlfeldt, was “the most accountable in this case,” the July 2011 abduction of a 90-year-old man from Regency Health Care, 12575 Telegraph. There were “puppets” under his control, Ehlfeldt said, but Khattar called the shots and his directions were followed by at least two other men, including his son and co-defendant, Ted Tomes.
Darrell Howard, 50, pleaded guilty to unlawful imprisonment in October, 2011 for his participation in taking Floyd Pickrell from the nursing home. The abduction was captured by security cameras which revealed two men hoisting Pickrell over a wall. Howard was sentenced in November to 2.5 to 15 years in prison by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Carole F. Youngblood.
Last week’s trial was the third for Khattar and Tomes: In October 2011 and again in February a hung jury resulted in a mistrial.
Tomes, 25, was declared not guilty of all charges last week after testifying that he was mislead by his father, with whom he’d only recently forged a relationship.
During testimony, Tomes explained that Khattar left his family not long after his birth, and eight years ago the teenage Tomes sought him out.
“I was curious,” Tomes said. “Every child should know his father.”
A sporadic relationship followed, and Tomes contacted his father occasionally while working and studying at Eastern Michigan University. Usually, Tomes made the trip to a Taylor coffee shop owned by Khattar, where Floyd Pickrell was a frequent customer.
Tomes said that last year his father asked him to help the aging man, known as “Pickle” to his friends, as he was free to leave Regency Health Care but needed a place to stay for a few days, perhaps a week.
Tomes agreed and drove Pickrell to a motel in Ypsilanti not far from his work and fraternity house.
Red flags began waving, Tomes said, when his father assured him he wasn’t “doing anything wrong”” and also to wrap his cell phone in aluminum foil when they discussed Pickrell.
Doubts turned to certainty when, the second night after taking Pickrell away from the nursing home, Tomes said they were watching TV in the hotel room.
“I think that’s me,” Pickrell told Tomes, who watched news reports of an all-out search for Pickrell.
“I didn’t understand what I was seeing,” Tomes said. “I was scared to death.”
Tomes testified that he tried calling Khattar but did not make contact. He checked out of the hotel, and prepared to take Pickrell back to Taylor.
Asked by Ehlfeldt why he didn’t call the police, Tomes said he, “wasn’t in (his) right
mind” and that he “absolutely should have” called the authorities.
Instead, officers with the Wasthenaw County Sheriff’s Department and Taylor Police showed up at the hotel, having been alerted by a hotel employee who recognized Pickrell from the newscasts.
“I did it because it was my dad and I should have been able to trust him,” Tomes said. “Clearly I was wrong.”
Ehlfeldt emphasized in his closing arguments that Khattar was the “mastermind” of the abduction. Investigators said that Khattar had until recently been a guardian of Pickrell until a court order removed Khattar from that authority. Khattar then planned to kidnap the elderly man for financial gain.
The jury found Khattar guilty of unlawful imprisonment, conspiracy to commit unlawful imprisonment, and third- and fourth-degree vulnerable adult abuse.
Khattar is scheduled to be sentenced June 6.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected])