ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - A man charged with kidnapping a woman he met on Tinder says he can prove he's innocent. His attorney revealed text messages and video surrounding the alleged crime.
Matt Zulpo, 40, faces a kidnapping charge in St. Louis County. A probable cause statement says he met an 18-year-old online, arranged to meet her at his home and then told her “plans changed, you’re kidnapped.”
Zulpo’s attorney, Joel Schwartz, says that’s not what the evidence shows.
“My strong guess is the prosecutor didn’t have all the information in front of them prior to issuing the charges, which is the danger here,” he said.
Ring video shows the alleged victim, whose identity we are protecting. You can see her run out of the suspect’s house. Then she stops in the front yard and looks at her phone.
“It was some sort of momentary panic slash paranoia,” Schwartz said. “She ran out of the house – 10 feet, then stopped and calmly walked away.”
Schwartz says text messages show she wrote: “I was just high.”
Zulpo responded: “Why would you do that” and she answered, “so I got paranoid.”
“My client is clearly concerned based upon his texts,” Schwartz said. “He offers her a ride home. He wants to know what went wrong and why she left, given the fact that they were laughing, audibly, simply prior to her leaving.”
The Ring video also captures that laughing. Then there’s another wild card – a third person was there – a woman about 30 years old.
“I’ve spoken to that third person,” Schwartz said. “And that person confirms the fact they were joking around as well as getting high.”
He says law enforcement hasn’t even talked to the third person.
But why would the 18-year-old say that she was kidnapped?”
“I can only guess as to why she might say something like that, but they were joking around and he said something along the lines of, ‘You are just so cute I could just keep you here forever,’ something like that, would cause someone potentially to get paranoid, freak out, and then run,” Schwartz said.
The St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office responded with the following statement: “This past week we were made aware of potential new evidence in this case. Our attorneys and investigators are working diligently to determine the veracity and the impact this may have on the charges. When a determination is made, we will act accordingly and we will make an announcement at the appropriate time.”
A judge also reduced defendant Zulpo’s bond after looking at some of the evidence. Zulpo is now out of jail awaiting another court date in March.