Keith Leavitt (left), Joshua Laurio (third from left), Gabriel Laurio and Jeffery Tranter protested in front of the Grand County Courthouse last year in support of motorized access to public lands. Prosecutors have charged the four men with numerous felonies in connection with an alleged assault and kidnapping last month. [Moab Sun News file photo]

Randall Gaines and Misty McKee were fast asleep early one morning last month when the sound of “obnoxious banging” outside their Wingate Avenue home jolted them awake and out of bed.

Before the couple could even get from their bedroom into the hallway to find out what was happening, someone kicked down their front door. Four intruders then rushed toward Gaines and began to beat him violently, according to McKee.

As she ran into another room to call 911, the assailants dragged Gaines out of the home. She watched helplessly as they drove off in a truck with her boyfriend, who was severely beaten under captivity until they finally returned and threw him onto the street outside, according to a police report on the incident.

Police subsequently arrested Jeffery Dee Tranter, Keith Condie Leavitt, Joshua West Laurio and Gabriel Lorenzo Laurio on suspicion of numerous felony and misdemeanor charges, including first-degree assault, kidnapping and aggravated burglary. All four suspects have since been released from custody after they posted bail, which ranges from $74,000 to $76,000.

Leavitt and the Laurios are set to appear in Seventh District Court for their preliminary hearings on March 16; Tranter’s first court appearance is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Under the law, the four men are presumed to be innocent unless a court formally convicts them of any charges.

McKee said that she and Gaines have no plans to attend any of the suspects’ future court dates. Instead, the couple hope to leave Utah and start a new life in another place where they don’t have to look over their shoulders when they go shopping, or worry that schoolchildren will taunt her 10 year-old daughter.

“It’s too small of a town to live here after this has happened,” McKee said. “There’s always going to be some sort of animosity.”

More than three weeks after the incident, there are no obvious signs that Gaines was badly injured during the alleged assault and kidnapping – at least, not until he cracks a smile and bares two noticeably broken front teeth.

Gaines said he took a “pretty good-ass beating” in the early morning hours of Dec. 19, 2015, although he wasn’t worried about himself at the time. He would later find out that his grandparents who live next door were unharmed, but he said his first thoughts were, “Is my family going to be all right?”

Fortunately, McKee said, her daughter was not home when the four men allegedly barged in and began to assault her boyfriend.

“It would have been so much worse,” she said. “I would have lost my mind.”

While Gaines said that he’s doing well now, McKee said that her boyfriend still has trouble sleeping at night.

“Emotionally, he’s damaged and psychologically, he’s damaged,” she said. “Just because he can take a beating by four grown men doesn’t mean he’s all right.”

Alleged assailants accused victims of theft

A probable cause statement for the no-warrant arrest of Joshua Laurio does not offer any possible motives behind the alleged assault and kidnapping, although Gaines said the four suspects accused the couple of stealing from Tranter.

“They said that we robbed their house, but their house never even got robbed,” he said.

If the suspects believed that they were in the right, McKee said, they should have gone straight to the police with their concerns, instead of forcing their way into her home at 1:50 a.m.

“You don’t handle things that way,” she said. “You go to the law.”

But they did not appear to be operating under a rational frame of mind. According to the probable cause statement, all four men were heavily intoxicated, and McKee alleged that they followed Tranter’s lead without any hesitation.

“They ruined their lives over one accusation that Jeff Tranter set them up with,” she said.

According to Gaines, he and Tranter had just recently struck up a seemingly normal conversation about motorcycles.

“He had a motorcycle sale, and I was talking to him about it,” Gaines said.

The next time he saw Tranter, he said, the suspect was inside his home, leading the assault.

When McKee tried to jump in and disrupt the alleged attack, she said that Gabriel Laurio pushed her down to the floor.

She said the intruders demanded to know where her brother Cody Roark was. Contrary to other reports, she said, the suspects never had any contact with her brother early that morning.

With no signs of Roark at the couple’s home, the suspects dragged Gaines outside and continued to beat him, demanding that he take them to McKee’s brother. Gaines was then forced into the back seat of a white Moab Heat-N-Cool truck as Tranter drove off, according to the probable cause statement.

Their next stop was the Grand Oasis trailer park, where Tranter and Leavitt allegedly forced their way into another residence and threatened to “beat everyone in the house to death,” the probable cause statement says.

Two people at the home pushed Tranter and Leavitt outside, while a third person called 911; a woman at the home told police that she saw Joshua Laurio get back in the vehicle where Gabriel Laurio allegedly held Gaines captive.

As police drove around the trailer park in search of the suspects’ vehicle, dispatchers informed them that the break-in was in progress. By the time that they arrived at the scene, the four men had already disappeared. Yet before they drove off, a witness allegedly saw them continuing to beat Gaines.

When police finally caught up with the suspects at Gabriel Laurio’s residence, they were getting out of the vehicle. Gaines was nowhere to be found, and all four men denied that they knew who he was. According to the probable cause statement, the men allegedly reeked of alcohol and refused to cooperate with police.

Concerned about Gaines’ safety, the reporting officer returned to the scene of Gaines’ abduction, where a large crowd had since gathered. Witnesses told the officer that the suspects’ vehicle returned to the scene, and said that someone threw Gaines from the back seat onto the roadway before the truck drove off.

Once they were gone, Gaines rushed to check on his grandparents; his grandmother Randi Warren remembers the exact time that he knocked on her door: 2:37 a.m.

Although temperatures were well below freezing that morning, Gaines was only wearing a pair of shorts; he was transported to Moab Regional Hospital for treatment of his injuries.

Authorities praised for professionalism

With all four suspects in custody, police began their investigation of the incident. They allegedly found a “substantial amount” of blood in the back seat of the Moab Heat-N-Cool truck, and they retrieved bloody clothing from both of the Laurios.

Leavitt was allegedly carrying a handgun that he failed to disclose to police, leading to an additional charge of “restricted person in possession of a firearm.” Tranter, meanwhile, allegedly resisted arrest, and by the time that police were done charging him, he’d racked up 17 offenses, including three first-degree felonies.

McKee praised the Moab Police Department and the Grand County Attorney’s Office for their professionalism in responding to the incident and in prosecuting the suspects.

“It’s being looked at very seriously, and it looks like all of their charges are going to stick, which they should,” she said.

As for the alleged assailants, all four men have deep connections in the community, and McKee said she and Gaines have heard from those who are convinced that the suspects did nothing wrong.

“The only reason they look OK in society is because of their families and their place in society,” McKee said. “They’re not like lower-class citizens or anything.”

She’s incensed to hear from those who refer to her boyfriend as a “so-called victim,” and has faith that authorities will investigate and prosecute anyone who has allegedly posted threatening comments about him on social media sites.

“There are people on there who are literally saying that he should have been killed,” she said.

Outrage is one natural reaction that she still feels, but McKee also pokes fun at the self-styled “outlaw bikers” who belong to a group called the “Bureau of Renegades.”

“Honestly, I just think they’ve watched too much TV – ‘Duck Dynasty’ and ‘Sons of Anarchy,’” she said. “It’s like ‘Sons of Duck Dynasty.’”

Gaines’ father, Sean Robert Gaines, no longer lives in Moab, and he said he only found out about the alleged attack because a friend told him about it several weeks after the incident.

Although he and his son are not in regular contact with each other, Sean Gaines said he’s glad to know that Randall Gaines is doing well. He said he doesn’t know the details surrounding the incident, but he hopes that the people who are responsible for the alleged assault and kidnapping get what’s coming to them.

“I think they need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

Four local men charged in connection with December incident

It’s being looked at very seriously, and it looks like all of their charges are going to stick, which they should.