Man charged in teen’s murder
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. ” A man videotaped leaving a store shortly before a teenager was abducted in the parking lot was charged on Thursday with murder, authorities said.
Edwin R. Hall, 26, was accused of first-degree murder and aggravated kidnapping, the Johnson County Court Web site said. Bond was set at $5 million. He was due in court later Thursday.
Hall, who was being held in a jail in nearby Gardner, was expected to attend a court appearance later Thursday via video, said Brian Burgess, spokesman for the Johnson County district attorney’s office.
The charges came a day after the body of Kelsey Smith, 18, was found in the woods. She had been missing since Saturday night, when she went to the Target store in this Kansas City suburb to buy a gift for her boyfriend.
Surveillance video showed her being forced into her car around 7:10 p.m., and the car drove off. It was found in a nearby mall parking lot about two hours later.
Police Chief John Douglass said Hall appeared to be the same person shown in the video leaving the Target soon after Smith. He was wearing a white T-shirt, sneakers, shorts and a goatee.
“This community has lost a vibrant and promising life, and a family has suffered unimaginable tragedy,” said Phill Kline, prosecutor for Johnson County.
Police said Hall’s vehicle matched the description of a dark mid-1970s Chevrolet pickup that was seen entering the Target parking lot shortly after Smith’s car.
“I want to again express my condolences to the Smith family,” Douglass said. “I realize that this is not the preferred conclusion. While we cannot give them their daughter back, we can at least give them justice.”
Douglass said police had received more than 500 tips in the case and had questioned numerous people, including Hall, who was arrested at the end of his interview Wednesday.
Douglass said there was no evidence that Hall and Smith knew each other. He declined to offer a motive for the attack or specify whether investigators had determined that Smith was killed in Kansas, where the murder charge was to be filed.
Police found Smith’s body in a wooded area near Grandview, Mo., about 20 miles east of the Target store. Authorities did not say how she died.
“As I understand she was found at a wooded area, but I can’t say whether she was directly concealed by bushes,” Douglass told reporters.
Officers had been searching the lake area since Tuesday after tracing signals from Smith’s cell phone. Investigators isolated two signals from an area in south Kansas City, Mo.
Before a memorial service Wednesday evening, Smith’s father, Greg Smith, thanked the hundreds of volunteers and everyone else involved in the search for his daughter.
“She could walk into a room full of strangers and walk out with a room full of friends,” Smith told the gathering, fighting tears.
“Her excitement and passion for life was unmatched,” he said. “She lived more in 18 years than many people do with a great deal more time.”
After the body was found, Kimberly Kincade, 39, was one of only a few people who remained at the makeshift staging area for searchers in the Target parking lot, surrounded by stacks of fliers and cases of water and soda.
“The person who is going to keep us the strongest is Kelsey,” Kincade said, fighting tears. “She’s up there looking down and saying, ‘I know this is bad, and I know that I’m not there with you anymore. I can’t hold you, and I can’t hug you. But both of my arms are wrapping around you, and I’m there with you.'”
HARTFORD, Conn. – A girl who vanished a year ago and was found hidden in a room in a man’s home assumed a new identity that made her part of his family, authorities said Thursday, as they investigated whether he had inappropriate relationships with her and other girls.
The man, Adam Gault, 41, was arrested and charged Wednesday in her disappearance after police served a search warrant and found the missing 15-year-old girl locked in a hidden closet-like room in his house.
Investigators believe the girl sometimes traveled out of state and assumed a new identity while living with Gault, of nearby West Hartford, Bloomfield Police Capt. Jeffrey Blatter said.
“She was compelled to use a new name, to assume a new identity,” Blatter told The Associated Press. “She did assume a name that would suggest she was part of that family.”
The Associated Press is not identifying her because police are investigating if she was sexually abused. Authorities did not say how she altered her name.
Gault, a dog trainer, was arrested with two women who lived in the house. They were being held on $1 million bond each pending a hearing Thursday. It was unclear if Gault had a lawyer.
Authorities said the girl, who vanished last June, had a history of running away from home.
Other girls may have experienced “something very similar to what’s going on right now with this young girl” found Wednesday, West Hartford police Capt. Lori Coppinger said.
Police said Gault was associated with at least two or three other girls before police found the girl Wednesday.
The cases involving the other girls have not been prosecuted because the frightened girls were reluctant to give statements necessary to pursue the cases. Police said they will be interviewed and additional charges may be filed against Gault.
“The case is definitely ongoing,” Blatter said. “There are obviously greater suspicions that are being pursued.”
The teen had no obvious external injuries. Investigators would not speculate on what she might have experienced during the past year or if she was held against her will.
Blatter said the girl remained in protective custody Thursday so investigators could continue talking with her.
“In reality, even in the best of circumstances it might not be in the child’s best interest to go back immediately to their family,” he said.
Gault was charged with unlawful restraint, reckless endangerment, custodial interference, interfering with an officer, risk of injury to a minor and forgery.
Ann Murphy, 40, described by police as Gault’s common-law wife, was charged with conspiracy to commit reckless endangerment, conspiracy to commit custodial interference and risk of injury to a minor. Kimberly Cray, 26, was charged with reckless endangerment, conspiracy to commit custodial interference, risk of injury to a minor and conspiracy to commit unlawful restraint.
Police said they had already established that Gault knew the missing girl, and said he and the girl’s parents had some sort of undisclosed business transaction in the year before she disappeared.
Cell phone records showed that Gault and the teen talked often before she vanished, Blatter told CNN.
“There was an inordinate amount of contact via cellular phone and then, during follow ups, there were a lot of other circumstances that led us to believe there was an inappropriate relationship,” he said.
Officers had questioned Gault several times, but he always denied any involvement in her disappearance. They served a search warrant on his home Wednesday morning, seeking a DNA sample and other evidence.
The girl was held in a locked tiny room, about 3 feet high and 4 to 5 feet deep. The doorway was hidden by a bureau.
Blatter said it did not appear the girl lived in the hidden room, and that police did not find bedding or other items that would suggest it was used as living space.
“We have some mixed signals at this point,” Blatter told CNN Thursday. “There’s some speculation that she actually has been out of the house, possibly out of state a number of times, but it has clearly been a very interesting lifestyle from what we have seen so far, and definitely not very healthy.”
Police were unsure how long she had been inside. They said she could not have opened the locked, barricaded door on her own.
A 15-year-old boy was also living at the house, though it wasn’t clear whose child he was. The boy’s case was referred to the Department of Children and Families, which also will decide if the missing girl should be returned to her parents.
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