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Seattle couple plead not guilty to kidnapping man in Hazel Dell

Court records state incident stemmed from drug debt

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
Published:

A Seattle couple are accused of kidnapping a man, who apparently owed a drug debt, from the Hazel Dell Walmart.

Joseph Miguel Hall, 49, and Thomas Anthony Dituri, 39, both appeared virtually on a summons Thursday in Clark County Superior Court. They entered not-guilty pleas to first-degree kidnapping and were given a trial date of June 1.

Both men were granted supervised release, in part, due to the circumstances created by COVID-19.

A Clark County sheriff’s deputy responded around 1:45 p.m. April 20 to a report of a suspicious circumstance at the store, 9000 N.E. Highway 99. Call notes indicated a witness saw a man grab and throw another man into a white Toyota Tacoma truck, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

The Toyota was rented by Hall out of Seattle. Hall and Dituri, who are in a relationship, “plotted and carried out a successful kidnapping” of Zachary Ponchene, the affidavit says. They allegedly worked with a third, unidentified man, to set up Ponchene for the kidnapping.

The kidnapping apparently stemmed from a debt over drugs, court records state.

Surveillance video from the Walmart reportedly shows Ponchene fighting to get away from Dituri, the affidavit says.

Ponchene said he was forced into the truck and assaulted. The assailants took his cellphone and broke it, so he couldn’t call for help or be tracked. He was threatened with a syringe of Ketamine, a drug “typically used to produce a trance-like state, pain relief, sedation and memory loss,” according to the affidavit. Ponchene said he also saw a knife, zip ties and rope.

He was taken to Eatonville, in Pierce County, where he escaped after acting like he needed to use the restroom. Ponchene locked himself inside the restroom for about two hours. He eventually opened the door and asked a stranger to call 911, court records state.

The assailants were gone before the Washington State Patrol arrived.

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