Birmingham businessman Elton B. Stephens Jr. kidnapper receives 12 years in federal prison

The woman who participated in the kidnapping of prominent Birmingham businessman Elton B. Stephens Jr. has been sentenced to federal prison.

Tabatha Nicole Hodges, 33, was sentenced to 12 years on Thursday for her role in the 2020 Stephens kidnapping. Her co-defendant, Matthew Amos Burk, 35, was sentenced last month to 17.

Both pleaded guilty in the federal case to kidnapping and bank fraud charges. They are also being charged in state court and awaiting review of the indictment by a Jefferson County grand jury.

There is no early parole in federal court.

Stephens, then 75, was kidnapped on the morning of September 11, 2020, from a house he was renting from fellow businessman and philanthropist George Barber as he waited for his new home to be ready.

Stephens was taken to the suspects’ home in Remlap and held against his will for eight hours. He was only released after transferring $ 250,000 to the bank account of the alleged kidnappers.

Previous testimony in state court indicated that Stephens – whose family was ranked by Forbes magazine in 2014 as America’s 66th richest – did not know her captors.

According to previous testimony and court records, the suspects entered the Stephens’ Crest Road rental home at around 2 a.m. 8:30

Stephens woke up to Burke in his bedroom.

Matthew Amos Burke (Jefferson County Jail)

The suspect asked Stephens, “What are you doing at my house?” Which surprised and confused Stephens. Burke went on to say, according to the testimony, that he had bought the house two weeks before, which was not true.

Hodges’ two children – aged 11 and 13 – were with Hodges and Burke throughout the ordeal.

After waking Stephens up, Burke asked the victim how much money he had and if he had any real estate, according to the plea agreement. Stephens told Burke he scared him and asked Burke how much money it would take to leave him alone. Burke replied, “Forever or just for today?”

At one point, according to the records, Burke asked Stephens, “How much life do you think you have left? Stephens replied, “10 years.”

Burke then said, “I think you’ve got 20 more, I think you’ve got. Good healthy years, being successful in whatever you can choose to do, after that, as long as you do it right. “

About two hours of the abduction was recorded on Stephens’ sleep apnea app.

Elton B. Stephens Jr.

Elton B. Stephens Jr. (Contribution)

Eventually, the group left the house with Stephens in a vehicle with Burke and Hodges following him in another vehicle with his two children. One of the vehicles belonged to Stephens, but the detective said the suspects made him sign a bill of sale for $ 10 for his truck.

At one point, according to earlier testimony, Burke told Stephens that if he did anything to make Hodges uncomfortable, “it won’t end well for you.”

On their way to Remlap, the group stopped at a drive-thru at Full Moon Bar-B-Que for lunch. At one point, Stephens tried to jump out of the vehicle, but Burke pulled him back by his shirt.

At one point, Stephens asked the kidnappers what it would take to leave him alone and Hodges replied $ 400,000. Asked later by authorities how she got that amount, Hodges replied, “That sounded like a big number.”

Once at the suspects’ home, Stephens called his banker, a call that was recorded, and asked him to wire $ 250,000 to Hodge’s bank account. After the money was deposited, the suspects returned Stephens to his rental home. After they left, he went to a friend’s house to call the police. Birmingham and Mountain Brook police, as well as the FBI and the US Secret Service, responded.

Investigators were able to locate the suspects by obtaining GPS location information on Stephens’ phone. This led them to where Stephens had been taken. Authorities attended on Saturday September 12 and Burke and Hodges were there.

Hodges gave them his consent to search the residence and it was at this point that authorities found several guns, a Yeti cooler, a camera and money that had been taken from Stephens’ home.

Hodges told investigators Stephens voluntarily handed over the items to them, but court records said they said they would kill him if he called anyone. She also initially said the kidnapping was just her idea, not her boyfriend’s, but then said it was a lie.

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