Unbelievable Crimes

Dallas woman thwarts ex-boyfriend's intricate kidnapping and murder plot

Dallas woman thwarts ex-boyfriend's intricate murder plot

A Dallas woman's quick thinking thwarted an elaborate attempt on her life in Arkansas. Last month, Yulu Zhang, 26, survived a brutal kidnapping at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Michael Lee Roberts, and two accomplices.

The plan, authorities allege, was to murder Zhang so she couldn't testify against Roberts in a Collin County felony domestic violence case, which was slated for a July 10 hearing.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Roberts is a member of the National Guard and was worried a conviction for that case would threaten his career. He recruited Theron Alan Vance, a fellow guardsman, to help him kill Zhang.

 The men concocted a wild murder plot, complete with disguises and fake alibis.

The men concocted a wild murder plot, complete with disguises and fake alibis. Roberts deviated from the plan, however, when he decided to kidnap his ex-girlfriend rather than slit her wrists and make her death look like a suicide.

Roberts and Vance first accosted Zhang as she arrived home at her North Dallas apartment on June 13. Sneaking up behind her, Roberts strangled Zhang and tackled her onto the floor. That's when Vance showed up, wearing a blond wig and purporting to be an FBI agent named "Noah Vince."

Zhang told police that Roberts presented her with two options: "Either she could go with him or he would kill her." Vance said Roberts' original plan was to stage Zhang's suicide in her own apartment.

Zhang agreed to cooperate, but she secretly stashed a note in the refrigerator telling her roommate to call 911. Under the direct instruction of Roberts, she wrote another note telling her roommate she had to leave suddenly for China because a family member was sick.

Zhang's captors then took her to a Chinese restaurant in Dallas, where Vance, still masquerading as an FBI agent, broke her phone on the sidewalk. The trio then departed for the Oklahoma line.

When Roberts stopped at a gas station, Zhang once again wrote a note calling for help. Using a napkin she'd stashed from the Chinese restaurant and her makeup pen, Zhang identified the license plate number of the vehicle and named Roberts as her kidnapper.

Around 2:30 am on June 14, they arrived at Roberts' home in Bentonville, Arkansas, and went to sleep. The next morning, Roberts and Vance took Zhang to a sushi restaurant and then to run errands. In a Walmart restroom, Zhang wrote yet another note, this time on a napkin from the sushi joint. She handed it to an employee in the women's restroom, who called police.

As authorities investigated the case further, they learned that Roberts and Vance were working with a third accomplice, Roberts' roommate Jason Petitt. Although he initially claimed to know nothing about the plot to kidnap and kill Zhang, Petitt later cracked under police questioning. He copped to using Roberts' cell phone, wearing his clothes, and purchasing items with his debit card in an attempt to create an alibi for the time of Zhang's disappearance and death.

Petitt and Vance were arrested for conspiracy to commit murder. Roberts also faces charges of coercion, intimidating a witness and aggravated kidnapping. He is being held without bond.

Michael Roberts mugshot
Michael Lee Roberts, 24, was arrested for kidnapping a Dallas woman. Photo courtesy of Benton County Sheriff's Office
Theron Vance mugshot
Theron Alan Vance, 21, admitted to assisting Roberts. Photo courtesy of Benton County Sheriff's Office
Jason Patrick Petitt mugshot
Jason Patrick Petitt, 25, helped Roberts create an alibi. Photo courtesy of Benton County Sheriff's Office