Relatives of an 89-year-old woman, robbed by two teenage girls and forced into a car trunk for almost two days, say the octogenarian is tough as nails and recovering after her ordeal.
"I tell you, they're hoodlums," said Ada Loper, younger sister of Margaret E. Smith who was robbed by two girls after she gave them a ride from a Milford convenience store. The girls forced Smith into the trunk and left her there while they drove around Sussex County. "They must have thought she was dead, riding around for two days in the trunk," Loper said.
Jackeline Perez, 15, Junia McDonald, 14, and two boys they picked up after the carjacking – Phillip Brewer and Rondaiges Harper, both 17 and from Bridgeville – now face felony charges in connection with Smith's March 18 kidnapping.
However, all four had also been arrested a day earlier when police found them in a stolen vehicle, said Cpl. Gary Fournier of the Delaware State Police. Lt. Edward Huey of the Milford Police Department said the vehicle was stolen from McColley Street March 15, and police found the four teens in the car early morning March 17 following a traffic stop on Route 13 north of Harrington. Jermaine Roberts, 21, was driving but has not yet been charged, Huey said. The four teens also were not charged and were released to the custody of their parents.
A wild ride
Theresa Holmes of Milford, another of Smith's sisters, said the girls did not know what they were up against when Smith refused to hand over her car keys and struggled before they took the keys from her.
"To think of a 14- and 15-year-old girl doing that," she said.
On March 25, Smith was recovering at the Newark home of a niece after spending the weekend in Christiana Hospital.
Niece Sabrina Carroll said Smith is walking and getting around well after treatment for swelling in her hands and a foot infection. The family is gathering for an Easter reunion, and Smith should return to her Slaughter Neck home in a day or so.
"We have a lot to be thankful for," said Loper. "I'm telling you – she's tough as nails."
Smith's ordeal began March 18 about 11 a.m. when Jackeline and Junia, both of Milford, asked if she would give them a ride home from the Chicken Man convenience store in Milford. Smith obliged, but the girls did not get out at the first two Lincoln-area houses she drove them to. At a third stop, court records state, they demanded her keys. After a struggle, the girls took the keys to Smith's Buick Le Sabre and forced Smith into the car trunk, Fournier said.
The girls drove around before they stopped in what Smith stated in court records she believed to be West Rehoboth; the girls demanded and forced Smith give them $500 from her coat pocket.
On March 19, the girls picked up other friends, and they all spent the night at the Days Inn in Seaford while Smith remained in the trunk the whole time, with no food or water, Fournier said.
The morning of March 20, court records state, the teens dropped Smith at a cemetery on Calvary Road, east of Seaford, where a visitor saw her crawling on hands and knees and called police. Police found Smith confused and suffering from exposure; she was taken to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, where she was treated and released, Fournier said.
With the help of a relative, Smith went to police the evening of March 20 to tell them what happened.
While at the Georgetown troop, police in Bridgeville stopped Smith's car on Chaplains Chapel Road with Junia, Jackeline and three others inside, Fournier said.
Police arrested Junia, Jackeline, Rondaiges and Phillip as well as Deniaya E. Smith, 15, of Bridgeville.
Junia and Jackeline were charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree carjacking, second-degree kidnapping and second-degree conspiracy. They were both committed to Stevenson House Detention Center on $122,000 cash bond.
Rondaiges and Phillip were charged with second-degree kidnapping, receiving stolen property and second-degree conspiracy and committed to Stevenson House on $27,000 secured bond. The boys were charged with kidnapping because at one point, Fournier said, the car trunk was open, and they saw Smith inside it.
Daniaya Smith faces charges of receiving stolen property and second-degree conspiracy and was committed to Stevenson House on $2,000 secured bond.
Police said all of the teenagers face felony charges. As a result, and because of nature of the alleged crimes, the Cape Gazette has reported their names.
According to court records, Phillip Brewer has additional previous charges. He pleaded guilty to felony robbery, burglary and conspiracy charges and was sentenced Dec. 18, 2012, to 5 years at level 5 incarceration, with credit for 150 days served. Further sentencing proceedings were deferred, and Brewer was placed in the custody of the Department of Correction to complete a boot camp diversion program followed by 18 months of probation. He also was sentenced to substance abuse treatment. On March 22, his bail was increased by $25,000 cash for violation of probation.
Brains not fully developed
Psychologist Joseph Zingaro said crimes by teens against the elderly are very unusual. Impulsive behavior causes teens to make bad judgements, he said.
"Kids get caught up in the moment," Zingaro said. "It's doing very thoughtless acts without thinking of the consequences."
Teen brains are not fully developed, although teens may appear physically grown. Because of that, Zingaro said courts take into account the age of the person when determining a sentence.