JACKSON, Miss (AP) — Five people were sentenced Wednesday in the kidnapping of a Mississippi girl from her elementary school in a family dispute over a piece of land and a portable storage shed, authorities said.
The child was taken from East Kemper Elementary School in Kemper County on April 30 and dropped off unharmed near a stranger’s mobile home the next day.
Wanda Faye Dancy, Shamarius Ruffin and Shaquayla Johnigan each was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to about a year in prison. Joyce Johnigan and James Shurman Johnigan each was sentenced to eight months, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Jesse Mae Brown Pollard, described as orchestrating the plot, is scheduled for sentencing Feb. 18. She faces 20 years to life.
Pollard’s son, former University of Alabama basketball player Devonta Pollard, was allowed to avoid prosecution if he stays out of trouble for two years. He said he didn’t know about the plot until it was too late and testified against his mother.
Prosecutors say the child’s mother, Roshell Ford, bought a piece of foreclosed land that once belonged to Jesse Pollard and that Pollard wanted it back, along with a portable shed that was on it.
Prosecutors say Dancy, the school secretary, told Jesse Pollard where to find the child that day: in the school library. Jesse Pollard and Ruffin went to the school, and Ruffin went inside to get her, then they all drove to a hotel in Bessemer, Ala.
Ruffin wanted to go home, so Jesse Pollard called her great niece, Shaquayla Johnigan, whose car broke down en route in Boligee, Ala. Devonta Pollard went to get Shaquayla Johnigan and took her to Jesse Pollard, prosecutors say.
Shaquayla Johnigan then took the girl to a hotel in Laurel, Miss. The next day, after a missing child alert had been issued, Shaquayla Johnigan called her father, James Johnigan. He called his wife, Joyce Johnigan, and asked her to meet Shaquayla Johnigan in Vossburg, Miss.
After meeting up, the two women dropped off the girl, unharmed, near Enterprise, Miss.
Shaquayla Johnigan drove the car into a ditch and left it there, then later gave a gym bag containing evidence to James Johnigan, who burned it, according to trial testimony.