Harper in Court In Elderly Kidnapping Case - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Harper in Court In Elderly Kidnapping Case

GEORGETOWN, De. - On a cold March day in 2013, the then 89-year old Margaret Smith said she was robbed, stuffed in the trunk of her own car for close to 48 hours, and then dumped in a secluded cemetery. She told WBOC in a past interview that she thought she would die in that trunk. But fortunately she was found at that cemetery, brought back to full health, and now more than a year later, one of the alleged suspects is in court. 

19-year old Rondaiges Harper was brought into the courtroom in handcuffs, lead by two guards. He is one of three people who are facing charges in separate trials for their involvement in the kidnapping and carjacking. 

Junia McDonald, who was 14-years old at the time and Jackeline Perez, who was 15 were the ones who initially confronted Smith. They robbed her, and then threw her in the trunk of the car. They then went and picked up Harper, as well as one other teenager Phillip Brewer. The prosecution said that for over 48 hours, the four had driven in the car, stopping to shop, eat, and stay at a hotel. 

The state argued that Harper was fully aware of Smith being in the trunk, making him an active participant in the kidnapping. In the opening statements, prosecutor Casey Ewart painted a graphic picture of Smith's suffering, when she was finally released at the cemetery. 

"It's cold. It's dark," she said. "And she was stumbling around looking for help." 

But Harper's attorney John Brady urged the jury to take caution when making judgements. He admitted that his client did some wrongdoing, but said that he wasn't the main perpetrator. He emphasized that his client wasn't there when the actual carjacking took place. 

"(You need to) figure out what bad things my client did..." he said. "It's not all the state said he did."

The prosecution called seven witnesses to the stand, including Betty Edwards, the woman who found Smith wandering in the cemetery, and offered her aide. 

"She had no shoes on," she told the jury. "And she could barely walk." 

The state also called various troopers, a doctor, and in an especially emotional moment, the niece of Smith. The niece said that she typically talked to Smith on the phone three times a day. When Smith failed to answer the phone for more than a day, she became concerned and called police.

Police issued a Gold Alert, looking for both Smith and her car. It was this alert that lead to the traffic stop of the teenagers in the car. Brewer, the fourth suspect made a deal with the prosecution to receive less punishment, in exchange for his testimony in court and an admission of guilt. 

In the hospital, the niece said it was hard to see her aunt suffering. 

"She just kept going over what had happened to her," she said emotionally. 

At one point during an interview with a state witness, the trial came to an abrupt stop when Harper started to show signs of an incoming seizure. Brady told WBOC that Harper has had multiple seizures since his arrest, saying that this medical condition might create some delays in court.

On Tuesday morning, Smith herself is expected to take the stand.
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