Man arrested in wild kidnapping, robbery crime spree gone awry

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SOUTH SALT LAKE — Police arrested an Oregon man this week who they say kidnapped three Jimmy Johns employees, then tried to steal an elderly woman's car after he was mistaken for a Mormon missionary.

The strange series of events began about 11 p.m. Tuesday at a Motel 6, 315 W. 3300 South, when Matthew Owen Reniff "tried to rob an employee with a big stick or metal pole for her car keys," a Salt Lake County Jail report states.

The employee was able to lock herself in a back room and call 911.

Reniff, 40, then ran to Jimmy Johns, 81 W. 3300 South. When an employee walked outside, Reniff "acted like he had a gun and told the victim to get on the ground or he would shoot him. The suspect then stole his car keys and forced him into the back of the car," the report states.

Two employees who heard the commotion walked outside and were "greeted by Reniff, threatened with being shot," and forced into the back of the vehicle, according to charging documents filed in 3rd District Court Friday.

When all three men were in the car, "Reniff got into the driver seat (and) asked where the good water was," the charges state.

When the men told him the good water was inside the store, police say Reniff got out of the car to go inside. After he did that, the three men took the car keys, got out of the vehicle and ran.

Reniff "ran inside the Jimmy Johns and stole bread and a drink," according to the report. He then ran to an apartment building behind the restaurant.

"Once the suspect was there, he knocked on an elderly female's glass porch door. The elderly female believed it was the Mormon missionaries because that's how they come visit her is at that door," the report says.

As soon as the woman unlocked the door, the man barged into her house. "The suspect then stole her car keys and stole a Gatorade from her fridge," police wrote.

Reniff went outside to try and steal the woman's car, but couldn't get inside it, police say. The vehicle "has a special way to start it and when it gets cold, the driver side door is hard to open which was unknown to the suspect," the report states.

After Reniff was unable to take the car, police say he returned the keys to the woman and ran off.

A short time later, officers spotted him and arrested him. At the time, Reniff was carrying more than $5,200 cash and plane ticket back to Oregon, the charges state. He told officers he made $2,000 a day selling marijuana, the report states.

He allegedly told police he was addicted to methamphetamines and hadn't slept in five days.

"Reniff voluntarily apologized, stating that people were chasing him and he had money but no one was willing to give him their car. Reniff's behavior was erratic and reminiscent of drug induced paranoia," according to the charges.

"This male suspect is extremely aggressive and delusional. With the seriousness of the crimes he was arrested for and the short amount of time they were committed, I believe he poses a substantial danger to the public and should not be released from the Salt Lake County Jail until he is able to go to court for the crimes committed," the officer wrote in the report.

Reniff, of Eugene, Oregon, was charged Friday with three counts of aggravated robbery and three counts of aggravated kidnapping, first-degree felonies; and two counts of burglary, a second-degree felony. Bail was set at $150,000.


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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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