Kidnapping case underway in county

The trial of a Chinese national indicted in a bizarre 2013 kidnapping case got underway Monday in Wood
County Court of Common Pleas.
Hui Zhang, 23, Toledo, appeared in the courtroom of Judge Robert Pollex. She stands indicted on one count
of kidnapping, a second-degree felony, and one count of aggravated robbery, a first-degree felony.
Her three codefendants – Blake Long, 21, Brittany Long, 20, and Nicholas Martinez, 19, all of Toledo –
pleaded this spring to amended charges of one count of abduction, a third-degree felony. Each was
sentenced to three years in prison. As part of their plea agreement, the trio were to testify against
Zhang at the trial.
Executive Assistant Prosecutor Gwen Howe-Gebers described the alleged crime during her opening
statements, noting that the charges stem from an Aug. 18 to 19, 2013, incident in which Kun Lu, a
University of Toledo student and Chinese national himself, was allegedly contacted by Zhang on a chat
website about going on a trip to Cedar Point. He was later reportedly picked up at his Toledo residence
and traveled with Zhang, the Longs and Martinez.
The group drove Lu to a vacant house on Palmer Avenue in Bowling Green, where he was reportedly robbed of
his cell phone and debit card; Martinez threatened Lu with a knife, she said, and he was forced to go
into a dark basement. Lu’s card was reportedly used by the group members to make purchases, and Lu was
later taken to an Econo Lodge in Holland, where the group reportedly attempted unsuccessfully to extort
money from his relatives in China via cell phone. Lu was later released unharmed after, Howe-Gebers
said, the group had become bored with the scheme.
Howe-Gebers described Zhang as an active participant in the incident, including helping to purchase items
with Lu’s stolen card, and assisting in the attempted extortion of Lu’s parents.
Defense attorney Martin McManus did not deny that the crimes took place, but said Zhang "was nothing
but a pawn in this thing that happened." Lu was not targeted, he said, but responded to an open
invitation online.
He said that Zhang’s involvement is complicated by issues stemming from Chinese culture, and that, unlike
the other three participants, she had no financial motive. McManus indicated that Zhang comes from a
wealthy family in China, and her family members routinely wire her large sums of money so that she can
"The evidence is going to be so clear … my client had no motive to do this," he said.
During his testimony Monday, Lu, speaking through an interpreter, noted that Martinez "put the knife
on my back and ordered me into the basement."
"The basement was very dark, and I’m really scared," he said.
During a portion of the cross examination, defense attorney Ronnie Wingate was at pains to piece together
the differences between Lu’s testimony and a statement he made to police, which was written down by a
friend’s uncle – including that the group never stopped Lu from making a cell phone call prior to going
into the home in Bowling Green. The language barrier and the complications of translation prompted
questions to be rephrased numerous times.
The trial is set to continue today.