Harper gets 30 years for kidnapping, carjacking

First of three on trial for locking woman, then 89, in trunk
July 25, 2014

The first of three teens facing trial for kidnapping and carjacking a 89-year old woman in March 2013 has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Rondaiges Harper, 19, was convicted June 26 of first-degree carjacking, first-degree kidnapping and two counts of conspiracy for his role in locking Margaret Smith, now 90, in the truck of her car for two days before dumping her in an isolated cemetery.

In handing down the sentence, Delaware Superior Court Judge Richard Stokes said, “Mr. Harper, you have little respect for the law. I find you to be a dangerous person.”

Harper was facing a maximum of 66 years in prison. Prosecutor Melanie Withers asked Stokes for a sentence of 15 years. But Stokes, taking into account the nature of the crime and Harper’s previous arrests for theft, shoplifting and assault, gave Harper the maximum of 25 years for kidnapping and five years for carjacking. Harper also received two years probation conspiracy charges and must complete six years of work release as part of his sentence.

Harper’s attorney, John Brady, said he would appeal his client’s conviction within 30 days. He said Stokes was sending a message with his sentence.

“This is the first person he could send a message with,” Brady said.

As soon as Stokes read that Harper would receive 25 years, Harper’s family members left the courtroom.

Speaking in his own defense, Harper apologized for what happened and said he did not wish to spend the rest of his life in jail.

“I’m not that person,” he repeated several times during his statement. Harper, who has a deep voice but speaks softly, said he wished to finish school.

But Stokes and Withers pointed out that Harper knew Smith had been kidnapped by co-defendants Jackeline Perez and Junia McDonald and that Smith did not wish to be in the trunk. Withers said Harper, along with co-defendant Phillip Brewer, who pleaded guilty to carjacking and kidnapping and testified against Harper at trial, took Smith out of the trunk and then put her back in during their two-day joyride.

“They did not care whether she lived or died,” Withers said.

Stokes said the teens terrorized, brutalized and humiliated Smith.

“You,” he said looking at Harper, “helped keep the victim imprisoned. You knew Mrs. Smith was helpless and frail. It was your idea to abandon her in an isolated cemetery.”

Stokes said it was remarkable Smith survived her ordeal.

Smith herself did not appear at the sentencing; she testified during reverse amenability hearings for Harper, McDonald and Perez and also testified at Harper’s trial.

McDonald is the next defendant to stand trial, scheduled Monday, Aug. 11.