• Mid-South mother says child was kidnapped on the way to school. Police aren't pressing charges

    By: Winnie Wright


    A Mid-South woman is outraged after she said her daughter was kidnapped on the way to school Wednesday, and the person responsible wasn't charged.

    Lenarika Williams' mom said her daughter was walking down the street on the way to school when a woman offered her a ride.

    "I didn't know was I going to find her dead or alive, I didn't know if she was in an abandoned house, or anywhere, I didn't know."

    Erica McMiller said she feared the worst when she called Maddux Elementary School Wednesday morning to be sure her daughter, who walks to school, made it safely.

    She said the front office told her Lenarika never made it. "I called the police, the police came. He asked me if she had any friends close by."

    McMiller and West Memphis police began searching for 11-year-old Lenarika in the neighborhood when they saw a post on her Instagram account from a nail salon in South Memphis.

    "I googled the nail salon, I went over there, talked to the nail salon lady, she said she was feeling weird because the lady was watching her. She never said her name, she was saying ‘girl.' ‘Girl' this and ‘girl' that."

    The nail tech told McMiller she asked Lenarika if she was ok, and her response made the woman feel as though she wasn't. 

    McMiller said the nail tech told her she asked the woman whose child she was with, she responded, "her mother gave her to me."

    McMiller spent the day tracking her daughter, trying to figure out who she was with, when she got a call that Lenarika had returned home safe.

    "She said she tried to buy her everything. She took her to the nail salon, she took her to the bank, she took her to the room and asked her to take off her shoes."

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    Lenarika told her mom the woman first brought her to the New Hampshire Inn, just steps from her school. She then took the child to another hotel room in South Memphis.
    McMiller said the woman, a total stranger, told her daughter she was a social worker, that's why she got in the car. That car, and the hotel rooms were full of toys.

    When the woman, who West Memphis police haven't identified, dropped the child off, she was put in the back of a squad car and questioned. Then, she was free to go.

    "I'm trying to figure out why she isn't in jail. She crossed state lines, took her to Tennessee, and they just let her go," the outraged mother asked.

    FOX13 spent the day pressing city leaders for answers as to why the woman wasn't charged.
    "We talked to the local prosecutor, and we found no charges that fit what had happened," answered WMPD Assistant Chief, Robert Langston. 

    We interviewed him just moments after they'd finished interviewing the woman. She was picked up at that South Memphis hotel.

    Overnight a FOX13 photographer came across the woman after her tire blew out near 3rd Street and Parkway.

    He said she relayed the entire day's experience to him and asked to use his phone to call roadside assistance. This happened around 3 a.m. Thursday.

    Assistant Chief Langston said the woman is from the Nashville area. 

    Langston said her family hasn't heard from her since she left for a trip in mid-August. They said she was a nanny for 20 years but recently suffered a mental breakdown. 

    They told police when she saw the child, she likely reverted back to her nannying days.

    As a parent, Langston said he understands the mother's perspective, but even the FBI agreed there were no charges available, even though the child had crossed state lines.

    "They are going to do an involuntary commitment on her, get her off the streets and make sure she can't pick up someone else and make sure she's not in our community," Langston explained.
    McMiller isn't satisfied.

    "She got kidnapped. Y'all know she got kidnapped," she told us finally.

    McMiller said two other parents in West Memphis have told her their children have seen the woman outside of their schools in the last few days. 

    WMPD said they've gotten no reports from any other parent. It's important here; if you see something, say something.

    Prosecutor Scott Ellington sent me the following:

    "I learned of this incident early this morning from one of my Crittenden County Deputy Prosecutors. West Memphis Police Department investigators began working this incident Thursday afternoon and have continued to investigate today into the early afternoon. We know more now than we did earlier today. At this point there have been no criminal charges filed. This matter will remain under investigation and investigators will continue working the case until we have the results of those tests. At that time, we should be able to make the appropriate charging decision."

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