State police say four teens charged in the kidnapping of a Slaughter Neck woman, 89, March 18 are also under investigation by Delaware State Police for a separate incident in which they were found in a stolen vehicle a day earlier.
Jackeline Perez, 15, Junia McDonald, 14, Phillip Brewer and Rondaiges Harper, both 17, face felony charges in connection with carjacking Margaret E. Smith and forcing her into the trunk of her vehicle, keeping her there for about two days while the teens drove around Sussex County in Smith's car.
According to police, it was not the first time the teens were caught in a stolen car.
Early in the morning of March 17, police stopped a stolen Honda Accord on Route 13, north of Harrington and found the foursome riding as passengers. Jermaine Roberts, 21, was the driver, said Lt. Edward Huey of the Milford Police Department, who initially investigated the case because the car was stolen March 15 from McColley Street in Milford.
Milford police did not press charges against the driver or the passengers. "We suspect they may have stolen the car, but can't prove it without a reasonable doubt," Huey said.
Huey said the teens and driver could possibly face receiving stolen property, but Milford turned the case over to Delaware State Police because the actual traffic stop occurred outside Milford city limits. Jackeline and Junia, both of Milford, and Phillip and Rondaiges, both of Bridgeville, were released to the custody of their parents following the March 17 traffic stop, he said.
Cpl. Gary Fournier of the Delaware State Police said police are investigating the stolen Honda Accord incident, but he had no further comment at press time.
Jason Miller, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said the teens' cases are in Family Court but are under review by prosecutors.
"Our office is reviewing circumstances and determining how to proceed," he said.
Miller said he did not know if the cases would be moved to Superior Court; for now, they remain confidential in Family Court.
Four teens in custody; one released
All four teens and a fifth, Deniaya E. Smith, 15, of Bridgeville – who was with the four when police stopped them riding in Smith's car in Bridgeville – were initially committed to Stevenson House Detention Center.
Joseph Smack of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families, which handles juvenile detentions, said Deniaya has been released to the custody of a parent. Jackeline and Rondaiges remain in Stevenson House, Jackeline on $122,000 cash bond; Rondaiges on $27,000 secured bond. Junia was moved to the New Castle County Detention Center, where she is detained on $122,000 cash bond.
"It was felt that was the best placement, away from the other offenders at Stevenson House," Smack said, adding she was not in any danger at Stevenson House.
Phillip Brewer was transferred to Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington where he is in the new criminal offenders program, Smack said. Brewer is detained on $27,000 secured bond for the recent charges and $25,000 cash bond for violation of probation.
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.
Junia and Jackeline were charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree carjacking, second-degree kidnapping and second-degree conspiracy; Rondaiges and Phillip were charged with second-degree kidnapping, receiving stolen property and second-degree conspiracy. The boys were charged with kidnapping because at one point, Fournier said, the car trunk was open, and they saw Smith inside it.
Deniaya Smith faces charges of receiving stolen property and second-degree conspiracy.
Robbed, forced in trunk
Smith's ordeal began March 18 around 11 a.m. when Jackeline and Junia, both of Milford, asked if she would give them a ride home from the Mills Brothers Chicken Man convenience store on Southeast Second Street between McColley and Marshall streets in Milford.
Sylvia Henderson, director of student support for the Milford School District, said Junia and Jackeline were enrolled in the school district, but she would not provide any further information on their status. March 18 was a regular school day in the district, she said.
Smith obliged but the girls directed her to two Lincoln-area addresses and then robbed her at a third stop, court records state. Smith struggled with the girls when they demanded the keys to Smith's Buick Le Sabre; the girls eventually grabbed the keys and forced Smith into the car trunk, Fournier said.
Next, the girls drove around before they stopped in what Smith stated in court records she believed to be West Rehoboth and forced Smith to give them $500 from her coat pocket.
On March 19, the girls picked up some other friends in Coverdale and they all spent the night at the Days Inn in Seaford; Smith remained in the car trunk the whole time with no food or water, Fournier said.
A clerk who answered the phone at Days Inn said they require identification that shows a person is 18 or older when renting a room. When asked how the teens were able to rent a room, he said they might have had stolen ID.
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.
"She was out of it at the hospital and we weren't pressuring her to give answers," he said.
Smith went home with a relative who later brought Smith to the police station March 20 to to recount her experience, Fournier said.
While Smith was at the Georgetown troop giving her account of what happened, police in Bridgeville stopped Smith's car on Chaplains Chapel Road with the teens inside, Fournier said.