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Idaho Woman Gets 23 Years for Casino Payout Kidnapping


An Idaho Falls woman is heading to prison for 23 years after she was sentenced for her role in a brutal kidnapping believed to stem from a dispute over a $3,000 casino win. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Victim allegedly kept ringleader’s casino winnings

An Idaho Falls woman who kidnapped, brutally tortured, and left her victim for dead earlier this year is heading to prison for over 20 years.

On June 15, District Judge Dane Watkins Jr. ordered Maddeline Ovard, 30, to serve time on all charges, including second-degree kidnapping, for a potential 23-year stretch.

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho took to Twitter to ask the public for help in finding Ovard and co-defendant Tabatha McKnight, 37, after the March 2020 “abduction, robbery, and aggravated battery” of the unnamed victim.

According to the Post Register, Bonneville County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Randall Spencer told the court that the kidnapping appeared triggered by a dispute over casino winnings.

Spencer said that a man believed to be the ringleader behind the crime reportedly won $3,000 at an unnamed Idaho casino. But because the casino had banned him, he asked the kidnap victim to claim the winnings. The victim allegedly collected the prize but did not hand it over to the alleged ringleader.

Co-defendant McKnight’s case is due a status conference on June 29, the Post Register said.

Victim seized by three masked women

The Post Register reports that Ovard took a plea deal that involves testifying against her co-conspirators, “some of whom are unknown.”

The Idaho Falls daily said three women in masks abducted the unnamed 33-year-old victim, beat her with a socket wrench, and threatened to “slice her throat” during the four-hour ordeal. The victim said the kidnappers shaved her head, and that McKnight promised to shoot her.

The kidnappers drove the victim – stripped “except for a sweater, a towel, and a blindfold” – to Wolverine Canyon 15 miles south of Idaho Falls, where they left her suffering from multiple skull fractures.

While the victim escaped the kidnapping and torture ordeal with her life, former poker pro Susie Zhao (aka Susie Q) was not so fortunate. In July 2020, a convicted sex offender tortured and sexually assaulted Zhao before setting her body on fire. Police found Zhao’s lifeless, badly burned body in the early hours of July 13 at Pontiac Lake Park in Oakland County, Michigan.

Judge Watkins Jr. said the victim was fortunate to be alive and likened the case to something out of the visceral television series Breaking Bad.

According to the Post Register, police started searching for the victim at 5am on the morning after her abduction after a man called 911 to report getting sent a video of the attack via Facebook Messenger.

Prosecution believes ringleader manipulated Ovard

Despite Ovard’s active role in the kidnapping and torture, Spencer believes she was not the orchestrator, saying:

other suspects manipulated Ovard by telling her the victim was in a relationship with her ex-boyfriend”

Spencer told the court that “Ovard and McKnight had briefly taken the victim to the home of a man named Anthony Hoff, who has since died from a drug overdose.”

Ovard and McKnight remain the only two suspects to be charged with the crime. The third masked woman was not named in court filings.





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