Facing the shackled Ryan Place in Saratoga County Court on Monday, Rebecca Lefevre said she never expected to live through the ordeal her ex-boyfriend put her through on July 21, 2013.
That evening, her hands bound in a shirt, she was dragged by the hair into a remote wooded area near Saratoga Lake and made to dig a shallow grave with her bare hands. Place beat her badly — fracturing one rib — and also threatened to drown her in a small pond nearby.
“I was sure I was going to die,” Lefevre recalled at his sentencing. “I was just not sure when and what method he was going to use to kill me.”
When they left the woods and returned to Place’s home in Milton, Lefevre said he threatened to harm her family — her 60-year-old father and her 5-year-old niece — if she went to police. When she finally did seek out authorities the next day, she said he assaulted her father.
“There’s a sense of right and wrong and remorse that separates monsters from men,” she told the court. “And this is something that Ryan Place inherently seems to lack.” Place, 29, who was on parole when he was arrested last year and convicted of second-degree kidnapping in June, was ordered to serve up to 20 years in prison. Before handing down the sentence, Judge Jerry Scarano said he is convinced Place, with a criminal record including four felony convictions over nine years, poses a danger to society.
“Mr. Place, I do find you are a dangerous individual and that society is better protected when you are behind bars,” he said.
But Place blasted his kidnapping conviction during the hearing and was supported by his family afterward. They both claim the kidnapping charge — the worst of nine counts in his conviction — was a fabrication resulting from a troubled victim and an overzealous prosecutor’s office.
Apologizing to Lefevre, Place acknowledged he struck his ex-girlfriend and that he was incensed by the demise of their relationship. But he said what started as a simple assault was “stretched, twisted, deformed and misconstrued” into a kidnapping that never occurred.
“By no means did I ever kidnap Rebecca at any time,” he told the court. “To say that I kidnapped Rebecca. Come on, really? If that’s not malicious prosecution, then what is?”
Outside the courthouse, parents Jim and Jo Place blasted the conviction, claiming Lefevre could have left their home at any time. They claimed his girlfriend was having substance problems and that the entire episode stemmed from a fight they had.
“She could have left at any time,” Jo Place said. “She was sitting in my house when I went in and found her.”
The case built by Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department investigators and later presented to a grand jury tells a different story.
On the evening of the kidnapping, authorities were able to track Place to the remote wooded area in the town of Saratoga via an ankle monitor he was wearing while on parole for burglary.
After leaving the woods, Place brought the woman back to his family’s home in Milton, where he was staying at the time. When he realized the authorities had been alerted, Place grabbed Lefevre’s cellphone and keys, then fled the area in her vehicle.
Place then drove to her family’s home where he nearly collided with her father as he was leaving to pick up his daughter. He then assaulted the man before finally being taken into custody.
While at the Saratoga County Jail, Place also attempted to call Lefevre roughly 90 times over the course of two days, according to prosecutors.
At trial, jurors heard five days testimony from 16 witnesses, including Lefevre. They deliberated for about a day before convicting him on all counts.
Assistant District Attorney Kristin Foust characterized Place as a dangerous individual and registered sex offender who had spent upward of eight years over the past decade behind bars. She said statements he made before the sentencing show that he has no remorse for the crimes he committed.
“This defendant has proven that he is not worthy of this court’s leniency, sympathy or compassion because he’s an individual who has lived his life thus far with such utter disregard for society and the law — ignoring any moral or legal code,” she said.
Place vowed to fight his conviction even as he was led from the courthouse to a sheriff’s cruiser waiting outside.
“I’ll keep going, get an appeal and keep fighting,” he told a gathering of media.