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Two face charges in carjacking/kidnap

MAYS LANDING, N.J. - Two people charged with going to an Atlantic City casino and carjacking and kidnapping a North Jersey grocer whose body may have been found near a farm field over the weekend are scheduled to appear in Superior Court Wednesday.

Craig Brian Arno
Craig Brian ArnoRead more

MAYS LANDING, N.J. - Two people charged with going to an Atlantic City casino and carjacking and kidnapping a North Jersey grocer whose body may have been found near a farm field over the weekend are scheduled to appear in Superior Court Wednesday.

Craig Brian Arno, 44, a career criminal from Atlantic City who had apparently once tried to turn his life around by going into business with his mother making gift baskets, and Jessica Kisby, 24, an Egg Harbor Township mother of a 5-year-old, were arrested Friday in an Atlantic County motel in connection with the May 21 disappearance of Martin Caballero, 47, from a parking garage at Trump's Taj Mahal Casino.

Caballero vanished minutes after dropping his wife and daughters off at the casino and then driving alone into the self-parking area. His white luxury sedan was found engulfed in a fireball several hours later in Gloucester Township, about 50 miles from Atlantic City.

What could be Caballero's remains were found early Sunday off a muddy lane leading to a hay field off Leipzig Avenue in Hamilton Township. Caballero had served in the military when he was younger, and forensics experts need access to a military database to determine if the remains are his, Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said. A positive identification had not been made as of yesterday, officials said.

Charges against Arno and Kisby could be upgraded to homicide if the remains are positively identified. The pair will appear before Judge Michael A. Donio to hear the charges against them and be advised of their rights. If necessary, a public defender for each will be assigned at the time.

Neither Arno nor Kisby is a stranger to law enforcement.

Kisby, a 2004 graduate of Egg Harbor Township High School, was quiet, kept to herself, and was not known as a troublemaker, said neighbor Jason Becker, 25, who said he went to school with her.

"She always seemed like a pretty normal girl," Becker said. "I remember some problems in high school, but nothing real serious. I think it involved fights over some guy or something like that."

Court records show that Kisby was arrested in 2008 for involvement in an incident at an Egg Harbor Township motel in which a man she was with brandished a gun that went off during a struggle. She pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and served her sentence in the county jail before being released in March.

Arno's criminal history dates to 1981, when he was 16. He was drag racing at up to 80 m.p.h. on City Avenue near 77th Street in the Overbrook Park section in Philadelphia and struck another vehicle head on, killing its occupant. Karen McNaughton, 27, of Media, was a nurse on her way to work at Lankenau Hospital, where she was declared dead on arrival on Oct. 21, 1981.

A charge of murder against Arno was reduced to manslaughter in 1982, and he was sentenced to five years' probation, during which time he was forbidden to drive or own a vehicle. But three years later he was arrested again when a police officer saw him weaving in traffic along City Avenue. His sentence was upgraded to 21/2 to 5 years.

Over the next 20 years, Arno was in and out of trouble, spending several years in federal prisons in New Jersey and Texas for auto theft, fraud, counterfeiting, and other offenses. He turned up in 1997 in Atlantic City, where police who arrested him on fraud charges found more than $6,000 in counterfeit traveler's checks and cash, a .45-caliber pistol, a 12-gauge shotgun, and ammunition, according to court documents.

An investigation showed that Arno had passed more than $100,000 in counterfeit checks around the country and tried to swindle the now-defunct Atlantic City-based MidAtlantic Bank out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by depositing phony checks.

U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle in Camden sentenced him to 70 months in prison with five years' supervised release to follow. He ordered that Arno obtain treatment for his mental illness, which included bipolar disorder and a gambling addiction, court papers show.

Arno was released from prison in June 2002 on those charges and later that year was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit and placed on medication, according to documents filed in a court appeal. In 2005, the records say, he stopped taking his medication and seeing a therapist.

During those first years of release, he had been helped significantly by the involvement of his mother, Gail B. Arno, now 67. In 2003 she signed leases and business loans to help him start and run a small gift business called Awesome Baskets L.L.C. on Ventnor Avenue in Longport, his public defender, Lori Koch, said in court filings.

But when the business began to fail soon after opening, and creditors threatened to take his mother's pension and attach her Social Security payments, Arno's mental-health problems resurfaced, Koch said.

The mother and son also ran two other companies, both of which failed, according to court documents.

In 2006, Arno used his mother's identity to obtain more than $250,000 in credit in New Jersey, according to federal prosecutors. When they obtained a warrant for his arrest on charges of credit card fraud, Arno fled the state in an Enterprise rental car.

"The stress of his failing (gift basket) business was too much for Arno to bear in his untreated state. He panicked and fraudulently used his mother's identity in an attempt to gain money from various credit card companies," Koch wrote in an appeal.

When he was captured in 2008, he was driving a stolen car in Texas. After serving 20 months in a Texas prison on auto-theft charges, he was remanded to New Jersey where he again went before Simandle, who gave him a two-year sentence on the credit card fraud charge with two years of supervised release to follow.

Simandle again made mental-health treatment a condition of Arno's incarceration and release. Upon release, he was ordered to refrain from gambling, attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings, and register for a confidential Atlantic City casinos self-exclusion list.

In July 2006, Arno's mother filed for bankruptcy in Florida. Her petition said she was retired, living alone in a Boca Raton condominium, and drawing about $3,200 a month in Social Security, her pension, and an IRA. But she had accumulated more than $391,000 in debt, mostly to credit card companies and banks.

According to her filing, Arno's son had enlisted her to be a managing member of a company called Told Ya Conglomerated "because he was a convicted federal felon on parole." That venture never earned any money, and she said she believed "he ultimately used the business and [her] credit to defraud others."