Family Charged with Stealing Child for ‘Leverage’ in Property Dispute
(PORTERVILLE, Miss.) -- A Mississippi family, including a former star of the University of Alabama's basketball team, have been indicted in connection with the kidnapping of a cousin's young daughter to use as "leverage" in a fight over property.
Among the suspects is Devonta Pollard, 18, of Porterville, Miss., who was a star forward on the University of Alabama's basketball team until he was forced off the court following his arrest.
Pollard is charged in a case that involves his mother, Jessie Mae Brown Pollard, 54, of Northport, Ala.; his cousin, Shaquayla Johnigan, 21, of Porterville; his uncle, James Johnigan, 39, of Porterville; and his aunt, Joyce Johnigan, 42, of Porterville. All have been indicted.
They are accused of conspiring to kidnap their young cousin Jashayla Hopson, 6, on April 30 as part of an effort to coerce the child's mother, Roshell Ford, into making a deal in a property dispute.
"We believe Jessie Mae Pollard owned a piece of one-acre land in Porterville. When the house on it burned down she lost the property in a land sale. It was bought by her first-cousin, the victim's mother," Kemper County Sheriff James Moore told ABC News.
Jessie Mae Pollard allegedly conspired with her friend Wanda Dancy, 52, of DeKalb, Miss., to kidnap her neice in an effort to reclaim her land.
"They began talking and Pollard told Dancy that she wanted to take Roshell Ford's daughter for 'leverage' to get her land back," FBI Special Agent Charles G. Murrow stated in his affidavit.
The girl was in her school library when Jessie Mae picked her up and drove her to a hotel in Bessemer, Ala., and sent her mother a chilling text message, according to the May 29 indictment.
"Don't call the police I will call you later if you call the police u won't see her again," the message read, the indictment states.
Special Agent Murrow stated in an affidavit that he used the number that sent the text to identify Jessie Mae.
"This number was assigned to a Samsung phone bought at a Walmart in Bessemer, Ala. Surveillance footage at the Walmart store depicts Pollard purchasing a Samsung phone on April 30," the agent stated in his affidavit.
Shaquayla Johnigan then drove the child to Laurel, Miss., where she checked into a hotel room and sent the victim's mother further instruction, said the indictment.
"Since you called police, I want $50,000 by 3 p.m., I will tell you location later."
The alleged plot began to come apart about then. According to the indictment, Devonta Pollard notified Shaquayla that his mother "had gone to take a polygraph."
Shaquayla and her mother, Joyce Johnigan, drove to a remote part of eastern Mississippi and dropped the girl outside a stranger's home and drove away, the indictment stated.
"At approximately 1:25 p.m. on May 1, 2013 the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department received a 911 telephone call advising that the victim was located at an address near Enterprise, Mississippi," Murrow said in his affidavit.
Shaquayla drove the car into a ditch in Jasper County and threw the keys into a pond, the indictment claims.
Her father, James Johnigan, burned the phone Jessie Mae Pollard used to text the victim's mother after she told him to "get rid of it," according to the indictment.
"If convicted, each of the defendants faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine," United States Attorney Gregory K. Davis said in a statement released to ABC News.
Jessie Mae Pollard has been charged with kidnapping and obstruction of justice and is currently in federal custody. If convicted, she faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $750,000 fine, the statement further declared.
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