Bellingham man admits to kidnapping driver, trying to kidnap another

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 24, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham man faces 20 years in prison for a 34-hour crime spree that entailed an armed burglary, two kidnapping attempts, a carjacking and taking a hostage.

James Michael Craver, 28, a bald man with an ex-girlfriend's name tattooed to his neck, tilted his head back and smirked during his court hearing Thursday morning, May 23. As Whatcom Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder explained the consequences of pleading guilty, Craver swung his arms and sarcastically interjected, "I'm not the man you're looking for!"

Moments later, however, he entered guilty pleas to first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree attempted kidnapping and second-degree vehicle prowling - a slew of felonies that spurred a countywide manhunt last year.

It began when Craver jimmied open the locked door of his ex-girlfriend's mobile home in Everson at 1 a.m. Dec. 11. They broke up three years ago, but Craver wanted to "get back together," according to charging documents. He held the woman and her new boyfriend at knifepoint in a bedroom.

Hours later, after he threatened to kill her and children in the home, the woman ordered him to leave. Craver responded by pushing her into a corner and stabbing her in the left forearm, leaving a small puncture wound. At that moment, Craver heard an alarm clock ringing in another room. He jumped out the bedroom window. The couple called 911, but deputies couldn't find him.

Twelve hours later, a Whatcom Community College student was leaving class when he saw a man - later identified as Craver - in the bed of his pickup. The suspect broke the glass and climbed into the cab. The victim chased Carver away from his vehicle and saw the suspect, armed with a knife, trying to "jack" occupied cars, according to court records. One driver couldn't lock her doors in time: Craver grabbed her keys but couldn't convince her to leave. (Police later found Craver's knife, wallet and phone in her car.)

Instead, Carver ran to a white Volkswagen Jetta stopped at Westerly Road and Eliza Avenue. He told the driver he had a gun. Terrified, she followed his orders and drove him into north Whatcom County and back.

Witnesses wrote down the Jetta's license plate, and officers tracked down the driver's phone number. But when police called, Craver grabbed the phone and threw it out of reach, according to the charges.

The woman dropped off her kidnapper in the 1900 block of Fraser Street at 7 p.m. He never showed her a gun.

Craver was arrested the following morning, when a corrections deputy saw him walking on Pacific Street in broad daylight. The deputy recognized him from jail.

Craver's criminal rap sheet dates back to December 1993, a month after his 9th birthday, when police cited him for shoplifting. Since then, court records show he has hardly gone a few weeks without getting in trouble with the law.

At age 17, for example, Craver held a steak knife to the throat of a 13-year-old boy he didn't know. And in 2010, he was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for breaking into a home on Pole Road to steal heroin.

Deputy Prosecutor James Hulbert, who has handled several cases against Craver, believes most of his convictions are rooted in one vice.

"It's the drugs, it's the drugs," Hulbert said. "But at the end of the day, whether you hurt people because of drugs or not, we don't care."

A sentencing hearing has tentatively been set for June 20.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Dispatcher blog at blogs.bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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