Juvenile Suspects in Kidnapping Case to be Tried as Adults - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Juvenile Suspects in Kidnapping Case to be Tried as Adults

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Shown are Junia McDonald, left; Jackeline H. Perez, center; and Rondaiges Harper, right. Shown are Junia McDonald, left; Jackeline H. Perez, center; and Rondaiges Harper, right.

GEORGETOWN, Del. - One Sussex County woman says she went through an ordeal last year that she will never forget. On March 18, 2013, Margaret Smith, who was 89 at the time, said she was giving two teenage girls a ride in Milford when they, along with a male accomplice, allegedly kidnapped her, stuffed her in the trunk of her own car, and then left her for dead at a cemetery in Seaford.

A year later, the Superior Court of Delaware Sussex County is preparing for a case against the three juvenile suspects. In a court ruling on Wednesday, a judge decided that they would not be tried in Delaware Family Court as minors, but in Superior Court as adults. 

The suspects are Junia McDonald, who was 14 at the time of the incident, Jackeline H. Perez, who was 15, and Rondaiges Harper, who was 17. The attorneys for these defendants asked for their case to be heard in family court, but Superior Court Judge Richard Stokes denied this request due to the severity of the crime. 

In court papers, Stokes explained that juveniles can be tried in the superior court for "specifically enumerated crimes."

"Margaret Smith was released by her captors voluntarily and alive," the documents said. "But she was certainly not unharmed and in a safe place." 

Outside the courtroom, opinion is mixed. Many believe the crime was severe enough to warrant an adult trial, no matter their age. 

"If they're going to be doing a horrendous, adult like act - then they should be charged as adults," said Irma Codey, of Georgetown.  

Others though such as Jack Kelb, of Rehoboth Beach, had some concerns over treating a 14-year-old the same as a fully-grown adult. 

"With the 17-year-old I can see them being adults," he said. "But with the 14- to 15-year-olds, some people can find it a little controversial." 

In the court papers, Stokes emphasized one interview as a fundamental reason for his decision. In that interview, a fourth teenager, Phillip Brewer, explained a conversation in the car after Smith was kidnapped. In that interview, he said that the younger suspects debated lighting the car on fire with Smith still inside. 

All three teenagers are now under the custody of the Department of Corrections, due to the change. Before that they were under the jurisdiction of the Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services. Federal law mandates that the DOC ensures they have no contact with adult inmates. 

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