The man who originally confessed to killing a Bethel Park woman and leaving her body in a Nevada desert pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and related charges.
John Matthew Chapman, 39, of Oakland, Md., was the boyfriend of 10 years of Jaime Rae Feden, 33, according to the testimony of Feden’s best friend, Danielle Femc, at Chapman’s preliminary hearing in Bethel Park Thursday afternoon.
Police charged Chapman with kidnapping, criminal use of a communication facility and obstruction of justice in November. He was held for court on all charges by District Judge Ronald A. Arnoni.
According to the criminal complaint, Chapman told police he drove Feden to Las Vegas toward the end of September under the guise of a vacation, and that he intended to kill her.
Chapman told police he used plastic zip ties to bind Feden’s hands and feet to a signpost. He then confessed to placing duct tape over her mouth and nose. Feden suffocated, and Chapman allegedly left her in the desert.
Feden had VATER Syndrome, which causes defects that can affect the vertebrae and esophagus.
However, Chapman is now claiming he is innocent.
At the hearing, Femc recalled the day of Nov. 14, when she went to Feden’s home on Timberidge Drive to check on her. Police gained access to the home after receiving permission from Keith Lewis, Feden’s uncle, who controlled her finances because of her condition.
Police found Feden’s cellphone inside. Officers said they also found a backpack containing a roll of duct tape and plastic zip ties.
Femc testified to receiving Facebook messages from Feden’s account, which Chapman later told police he had sent. One message claimed Feden’s uncle Ralph died. Femc testified Feden did not have an uncle Ralph.
Chapman also provided a phone number, which he claimed was Feden’s new number, but was actually a fake number masking his own cellphone, police said.
From that number, Femc said she received texts that said Feden hated her and never wanted to speak with her again.
Elizabeth Laforgia, Chapman’s lawyer, attempted to have the charges thrown out. She argued Feden could not have been kidnapped because she had gone with Chapman willingly for a “loving vacation.”
Whatever happened when they got there, Laforgia argued, was out of the court’s jurisdiction.
Chapman will have his formal arraignment at 11 a.m. Jan. 28 at Allegheny County Courthouse.
Lewis spoke briefly to reporters after the hearing.
“This is as bad of a blow to the gut as you could ever have. I would never wish it upon anybody, but as a family, we’ve decided we’re going to celebrate Jaime’s life privately, among friends, family and people that knew her. Not in the public arena,” Lewis said.
He also declined to comment on Chapman, except to say, “his actions speaks for itself.”
The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department is currently conducting a homicide investigation in connection with Feden’s death. Officials in Nevada recovered Feden’s body Oct. 5, and were referring to her as Jane Doe until they were contacted by Bethel Park Police Department.
Nevada officials were able to identify Feden through dental records. If Chapman is charged with homicide, he will be extradited to Nevada.
Bethel Park Detective Frank Marks said Lincoln County detectives will be meeting with Bethel Park police today to discuss the case.