2020 | Courts

Two years after accused murder, kidnapping plot, former Walter Johnson lacrosse coach awaits extradition from United Kingdom

Prosecutors compared attempt to steal children, kill parents to ‘script of a bad horror movie’

Nearly two years after his arrest in connection with a botched attempted kidnapping and murder plot in Virginia, a former Walter Johnson High School lacrosse coach is still awaiting extradition from the United Kingdom, according to federal court records.

In July 2018, Gary Reburn, of Kensington, was allegedly a co-conspirator in two couples’ attempt to kidnap five young children from a Mennonite community to claim as their own in a case federal prosecutors compared to “the script of a bad horror movie.”

In mid-2018, Reburn’s girlfriend Valerie Hayes told a Florida couple — Frank and Jennifer Amnott — that she was a government agent and three of her children had been kidnapped. Hayes told the Amnotts that the children were being held captive by two families in a Mennonite community in Dayton, Va., southwest of Harrisonburg, according to recently unsealed court documents obtained by Bethesda Beat.

The two couples spent several weeks devising a plan in which they allegedly claimed to be trying to get the children “back.” However, authorities later confirmed that the children involved had no relationship to Hayes.

Hayes knew the Amnotts could not conceive their own children and promised if they helped Hayes kidnap the children, then the Amnotts could keep one of the other children as their own.

The newly unsealed court documents show that in text messages in the days leading up to the attempted abduction, the two couples discussed what they would rename the children, whether they should buy them new clothes and whether they should drug the children to “facilitate” the crime.

The plan included killing the parents when the two couples kidnapped the children, so they could eliminate witnesses, according to court documents.

“Just make sure you come home. And please bring our son,” Jennifer Amnott texted Frank Amnott the night of the attempted abduction. Often, the couples referred to the victims as “our children” or “our babies,” despite having no relation to them.

Jennifer Amnott remained in Maryland to watch Hayes’ two children while the others traveled to Virginia.

Earlier that morning, Hayes, Frank Amnott and Reburn broke into the victims’ home while they were at church to “observe, among other things, the size of the children’s clothing and layout of the house,” according to court records.

Court records allege that the group used a drone to assist with surveilling the family for several days.

Later that evening, the group decided it was time to strike, court records says.

Hayes allegedly knocked on the door of the home, dressed in clothing “to appear as a Mennonite.” A parent answered the door and the trio held the parent at gunpoint. A second parent ran out of the house, hid in a cornfield and called 911.

When police arrived, Hayes, still dressed in Mennonite clothing, claimed to be a neighbor. Police told Hayes and Reburn to leave with the parent. Hayes and Reburn dropped the parent off at a nearby convenience store.

Downstairs, Frank Amnott was found holding the first parent at gunpoint, court documents say. He was arrested without incident. In December, he pleaded guilty to one count each of kidnapping; conspiracy to kill witnesses; and brandishing, carrying and using a firearm in commission of a federal crime of violence.

He faces up to life in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 2, according to a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia.

Reburn, Hayes and Jennifer Amnott were not apprehended and they returned to Maryland.

In the days following the attempted abduction, Reburn, Hayes, Hayes’ ex-husband and her two children fled the United States to the United Kingdom, according to court documents.

Jennifer Amnott attempted to flee to Ireland, but was denied entry because she “provided conflicting statements to Ireland immigration officials.” She later fled to Iceland, according to court documents.

Reburn, Hayes and Jennifer Amnott were all arrested on Nov. 28, 2018, in Glasgow, Scotland, and are awaiting extradition to the United States. No criminal charges have yet been filed against them in a United States court.

In December 2019, when news broke that Frank Amnott had pleaded guilty to several charges related to the crime, Walter Johnson Principal Jennifer Baker acknowledged Reburn’s arrest in a message to community members.

Baker’s message only said that Reburn had been arrested “for his role in an attempted murder and kidnapping in Virginia.” She wrote that Reburn was previously the girls lacrosse coach at the school, but did not elaborate.

An MCPS spokesman in December said Reburn resigned from his position in August 2018, the same time he was fleeing the country. He had been employed with MCPS since 2012.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com