Savannah authorities seek 3 men for rape, robbery

SAVANNAH, Ga. - They could hear the men laughing as they drove. They could hear them "hollering at girls" and hear the car bump over the railroad tracks in west Chatham County.


The one thing they couldn't hear was police sirens.

Restaurant manager Jonathan Jelf said he and dishwasher Richard Floyd spent more than an hour early Saturday hoping police were coming to rescue them.

They could do little else.

Mr. Jelf and Mr. Floyd had been shoved into the trunk of Mr. Jelf's Toyota Solara during a robbery at the restaurant. The robbers got the money. They took the car. What Mr. Jelf still can't fathom is why they wanted the two of them.

"I thought I was going die," Mr. Jelf told The Savannah Morning News. "I thought they were going to take us back in the woods, open the trunk and blow our brains out."

Their ordeal was only one part of a crime spree across west Chatham County by three men. Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police spokesman Sgt. Mike Wilson said the men raped a woman, robbed the Carey Hilliard's restaurant and then kidnapped Mr. Jelf and a co-worker - all within several blocks on Augusta Road.

Mr. Jelf is just one of a growing number of robbery victims.

As of July 28, 54 more people had been robbed in Savannah-Chatham compared to the same period last year. Crime statistics show violent crime is up 22 percent this year over last.

A MOTEL ATTACK: The mayhem started about 1 a.m. when three young black men in their late teens or early 20s attacked a woman as she was removing belongings from a car in the parking lot of the InTown Suites motel at 5450 Augusta Road, Sgt. Wilson said.

The men forced the woman inside the trunk and tried to drive off, but were unable to start the car, according to a police report.

Instead, the men pointed a gun at the woman and led her back to the room where she was staying with a girlfriend. One of the suspects then took the woman back to the car and raped her, Sgt. Wilson said. Then they stole money from the women and fled.

They then went to the nearby Carey Hillard's restaurant at 5350 Augusta Road, police said.

They were waiting for Mr. Jelf when he opened the back door about 2 a.m.

A GUN IN THE FACE: Mr. Jelf, 28, was closing the restaurant and preparing to head home. He unlocked the door to let out his dishwasher, Richard Floyd, 46.

"The guy with the gun stuck it in my face,'' Mr. Jelf said. "He made us go back in the restaurant and get all the money."

But the $993 from the cash register wasn't enough. They tried to open the safe, but didn't have the key, according to a police report.

Instead, they snatched Mr. Jelf's car keys, led Mr. Jelf and Mr. Floyd outside and forced them in the trunk.

After more than an hour, the men stopped the car and got out.

"We waited in the car for about 10 minutes until we couldn't hear them anymore," Mr. Jelf said. "I found the safety latch to pop the trunk. We got out and just ran."

Mr. Jelf and Mr. Floyd ran to a nearby Waffle House, where they called 911.

Neither Mr. Jelf nor Mr. Floyd was injured.

Mr. Jelf said he is confident police will find the men, who were captured on the restaurant's surveillance cameras.