Rather than face a jury that was waiting in the hall, Joshua Dale Southard, 31, of Ripley, Mississippi, changed his plea to guilty in a case of aggravated kidnapping that occurred in Vernon on February 19, 2022. As part of a plea bargain, Southard was sentenced to thirty years in prison for the aggravated kidnapping as well as ten years in prison for the offense of deadly weapon in a penal institution.
Authorities allege that Southard abducted the victim from the Wal Mart parking lot in Vernon during the early morning hours on February 19th. Southard approached the victim and asked him for a ride to a nearby convenience store. When they arrived at the convenience store, Southard threatened the victim with what appeared to be a handgun and told him it was a robbery. Southard forced the victim to withdraw funds from an automatic teller machine, forced the victim to blindfold himself and then drove the victim to a hotel on the outskirts of Wichita Falls in the victim’s own pickup truck. Southard then checked into the hotel using the victim’s credit card. The victim later escaped when Southard left the victim in the pickup truck and went into the hotel to request a refund. The victim then returned to Vernon and reported the abduction to authorities. Southard was arrested in New Boston, Texas, a few days later for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. In his wallet authorities found the victim’s social security card from the kidnapping. On May 1, 2022, while in the Wilbarger County Jail on the kidnapping charge, Southard was found to be in possession of a shank. He had sharpened the end of a spork into a fine point and then reinforced the handle with black plastic. Jail employees learned of the shank from other inmates.
According to District Attorney Staley Heatly, who prosecuted the case, Southard told investigators that his crime spree was fueled by meth use. The sentence was assessed by District Judge Dan Mike Bird. Southard was represented by Michael Valverde of Wichita Falls.