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Man charged with kidnapping stranger at knifepoint

Victim says kidnapper hid in back of car, demanded money, ride

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – A quick stop for a drink at a convenience store early Monday turned into a frightening ordeal for a Green Cove Springs man when he was kidnapped in his car and forced to drive his abductor 15 minutes down the road with a knife to his neck, Clay County deputies said.

Robert Williams, 45, said he stopped just before 4 a.m. Monday at the Speedway at Blanding Boulevard and Henley Road to get a drink on his way to work.

He said that when he got back into his car, a man popped up from behind his seat, put a knife to his throat, demanded money and forced him to drive to the intersection of County Road 215 and Juniper Avenue.

“I was terrified. I didn’t think I was going to make it home. I don’t want to see anybody else have to go through such a thing,” Williams told News4Jax. “I kept thinking of my kids, my granddaughter, my wife. I was thinking, if something happens to me, what’s going to happen to them?”

Williams admitted that he made a mistake by not locking his car when he went inside the gas station.

He said he passed a man as he walked into the store, but didn't think anything of it. Williams said the same man, later identified as 40-year-old Samuel Cole, was hiding in his back seat when he returned.

Cole told Williams that he wouldn't hurt him as long as Williams drove him where he wanted to go and said that he was going to kill his girlfriend, deputies said. Williams said Cole talked the entire time he was in the car and seemed drunk. He said Cole told him that he thought his girlfriend was cheating on him.

“There was one scary event while driving -- a Clay County deputy passed us, and he said, 'If you make any moves, you’re dead.' I was really scared at that point that this guy was going to kill me,” Williams said. “Anybody that would jump into the back of some stranger’s vehicle and put a knife to their throat, they’re capable of anything.”

Williams said Cole got out of the car when he stopped on County Road 215 and walked away, and Williams immediately locked the doors, drove away and called 911. He met deputies at a nearby gas station and reported the crime.

“I’m fine now,” Williams said. “I had time to relax a little, take a deep breath. I’m doing a lot better than I was this morning.”

Cole was later arrested outside a home on Joan Avenue, where he was arguing with his girlfriend, deputies said.

She told deputies that Cole was “acting crazy” because he was drunk and that she and another person left him off Blanding Boulevard and went home. She said Cole called her several times about getting a ride home and argued with her.

The woman told deputies that Cole tried to get into her house and she was afraid for her life and had loaded a gun, but she did not take the gun outside when she went out to speak with him.

Deputies said the homeowner gave them permission to search the property, and they found a knife matching the description that Williams gave under the front left tire of a vehicle parked in the driveway.

The woman told deputies that she was going to marry Cole and declined to give a statement. She could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Williams positively identified Cole as his kidnapper, deputies said.

Cole is charged with aggravated battery, attempted felony murder, armed car burglary, armed kidnapping and armed robbery.

He is being held in the Clay County Jail.

Cole has an extensive arrest record in Volusia County, including charges of robbery, burglary, attempted grand theft, forgery and possession of counterfeit money. He was convicted of the robbery charge and served eight years in prison. He was released last year.