MISHAWAKA, Ind. – The text messages made him think a friend and her infant son were in danger.
And when a 61-year-old St. Joseph County man arrived to help, he was tied up, gagged and beaten for several hours.
Now, 28-year-old Mariah Conn-Wilhelm faces multiple charges, including criminal confinement, armed robbery, robbery resulting in bodily injury, battery, intimidation, neglect of a dependent and possession of methamphetamine in connection with the Sept. 7 incident.
According to court documents, the man received a “despondent” text message around 2 a.m. from Conn-Wilhelm, who was described as an acquaintance. The message made the man fear for the safety of the woman and her 5-month-old child.
He went to their apartment to check on them. After he arrived, he said Conn-Wilhelm hit him with a frying pan and contacted another friend. The two of them tied him up, according to court documents, using a rope, chain and hand restraints. They also forced a ball gag into his mouth.
Over the next several hours, according to court documents, Conn-Wilhelm hit him with the frying pan, a pistol and a broom.
Eventually, Conn-Wilhelm held a gun to the man’s head and forced him to make a phone call about a property sale he’d had in the works. She ordered him to tell the buyer to make out a $17,000 check to her and arranged a pickup.
The buyer confirmed the check story to police and conceded the man “sounded odd” during the phone call.
Conn-Wilhelm eventually left the man alone in her apartment, taking his keys, phone and her 5-month-old baby. While she was away, he managed to get free.
The 61-year-old was naked, badly beaten and still wearing the ball gag when he sought help from neighbors. Police found him with a pair of black eyes and blood on his face. He also had marks on his wrists and ankles from the restraints. Doctors said he had several fractures, including a broken arm and multiple broken ribs after the beating.
Police found dried blood and bloodstains in several areas of Conn-Wilhelm’s apartment, including the bathroom floor, kitchen floor, a baby swing in the kitchen and a pack-and-play in the living room. The area where the man was restrained was located next to the pack-and-play; police also found black hand restraints, a blue rope and a chain nearby.
Investigators found a clump of hair consistent with the man’s hair and several small baggies containing what police believed to be methamphetamine.
During an interview with police, Conn-Wilhelm admitted she’d held the man at her apartment and “repeatedly beaten [him] with [a] broom and frying pan.” She also admitted she held a gun to his head and ordered him to have the purchase check made out to her, according to court documents.
Conn-Wilhelm is due in court for an initial hearing on Sept. 27.