When neither Kollias nor his teammate came home that morning, their respective roommates reported them missing. Campus police immediately took the reports seriously. Both players had reputations for quickly responding to text messages and phone calls. Police were especially concerned that their phones were off and their Find My iPhone apps disabled.
The University of Rochester denied Outside the Lines’ request to interview campus police. But prosecutors say the campus officers did not immediately connect Smith’s drug heist to the missing men. Instead, it was the teammate still living in the seventh-floor apartment, the one who didn’t take the bait, who found the first critical clue linking the two crimes. He showed campus police the Facebook friend request he’d previously ignored from Samantha Hughes. When officers then scoured her Facebook page, they discovered Hughes was friends with one of the men injured in the hammer attack. Campus police reached out to Hughes, asking to meet up with her and ask her a few questions. After huddling with Rivera and Strickland about what to do, she agreed to a meeting that Saturday evening at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts. Not wanting to go alone, she brought Leah Gigliotti with her.
Hughes acknowledged to police that she had been with Kollias. She said they had been together at a party but that she’d left when she became sick from drinking too much. When pressed for an address, Hughes told the officers that she couldn’t remember but offered to drive around with them to see whether she recognized the house. The cops took her up on the offer, but she led them to the opposite side of the river — far away from where Kollias and his teammate were actually being held.
Campus police let the women go.
That same day, Kollias says the masked men put a gun to his head and demanded he call his bank. In recordings obtained by Outside the Lines, Kollias asks a Charles Schwab customer service agent to help him transfer money to his checking account. When the agent responds that no money can be moved over the weekend, Kollias replies in a calm and steady voice, “I really need the money now.” But the agent cannot help.
“My life was more important than any amount of money,” Kollias now says. “I just wanted to survive.”
In another call, Kollias asks, “There is no way I could get the $1,500 just transferred over to the debit card for withdrawal?” When the customer service agent tells Kollias they can’t move money until Monday, he responds, “OK. Um, that’s fine, I guess. I’ll just call back on Monday.” The customer service agent, unable to see the gun next to Kollias’ head, tells him, “Have a great weekend.”
As the evening wore on, tension was mounting among his captors. “We kind of got into a little argument about, like, why they weren’t letting them go,” Hughes later testified. Both Hughes and Gigliotti said Strickland took Rivera’s plan for revenge beyond their expectations. Hughes and Gigliotti said that, at this point, even Rivera wanted to “ditch” Strickland.
After returning from their meeting with campus police, the two women grew increasingly worried about what they’d gotten themselves into. They’d later say that, originally, they thought Rivera and Strickland were just going to rough up the football players. Strickland particularly frightened them. “He called us b—-es,” Hughes testified, adding that she became “scared of people that I loved getting in trouble, and I was scared for the safety of my family and myself.”
Gigliotti put it more simply: “When you are high and drunk, you really don’t care.” She testified that she had only one real concern, that “Lydell was going to kill us if we told the police anything.”
Clockwise from top left: Lydell Strickland, Samantha Hughes, Leah Gigliotti and Elliot Rivera Rochester Police Department
By Saturday night, campus police had turned over their investigation to the Rochester PD, a bigger force with more resources. City investigators spotted strange activity in Kollias’ bank account — thousands of dollars were being withdrawn from ATMs. Surveillance video from an ATM less than a mile from where Kollias was being held would later show Gigliotti’s blue Dodge Dart pulling up to the machine. In her testimony, Gigliotti said that she and Hughes were in the front seat, Strickland in the back. When he rolled down the car window to use Kollias’ card, Strickland was wearing the same black and white skull mask he wore in the cellphone video. But then Strickland pulled the mask off, giving the ATM cameras a clear view of his face.
Strickland withdrew thousands of dollars before he went on a shopping spree that weekend, which included a $799 leather jacket, Timberland boots and a $27.99 pair of jeans from Marshalls.
Police Chief Michael Ciminelli, a Rochester native with two decades of experience investigating drug crimes with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, says he believes not being able to transfer money on the weekend might have saved Kollias’ life. “There’s no doubt the absolute intent was, once they got the money from that account, these kids would have been killed,” Ciminelli says. “They certainly had no reason to keep them alive after that. And every reason to not keep them alive, frankly. It was now a race against time.”
That night, the seventh-floor roommate who had ignored Hughes’ Facebook messages reached out to Isaiah Smith, asking him whether he knew anything about what had happened to their teammates. Ciminelli says Smith then contacted his former drug suppliers and “offered them $15,000 to release” his teammates. “But they said, ‘We don’t want money; we want blood.'”
Detectives told Ciminelli about Smith’s communications in the very early hours of Sunday morning. “Clearly this was an unusual situation that needed an immediate response,” he says. He put all of the officers investigating the kidnapping and the hammer attack into the same room to share what they knew while simultaneously mobilizing his SWAT team. He also ordered anyone related to either crime to be pulled in for questioning, including Smith, Hughes Read More…
Via:: NDTV – Sports