The case of an Elkins woman who allegedly bribed a girl under 13 to pose as her daughter so she could obtain money from a man has been bound over to Randolph County Circuit Court.
Chief Magistrate Ben Shepler found probable cause in the case of 33-year-old Corcia Smith-who is charged with one felony count of abduction of a person, kidnapping or concealing a child- Thursday during a preliminary hearing on the matter in Randolph County Magistrate Court.
Smith also goes by the names Corcia Ramey and Shelly Smith, and has reportedly used other aliases, according to court documents.
The charge stems from a Sept. 23, 2012, incident, during which Smith is alleged to have bribed a female minor to act as her daughter so she could obtain money under false pretenses from a man, Jimmy Tincher, according to a previous report.
The first witness called by Assistant Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Lori Gray was James E. Cornett, 19, of Elkins, who was also arrested on kidnapping charges for allegedly offering the two female minors $20 to pretend to be Smith's daughters.
Cornett knew Smith, he said, because Smith let him live with her when his house burned down.
Cornett testified that on Sept. 23, 2012, Smith told him to find a female minor who would pretend to be her daughter so Smith could get money from Tincher to take the "daughter" to the carnival at the upcoming Mountain State Forest Festival.
Cornett said he then approached two girls under the age of 13 - one of whom was his cousin - "and asked them if they wanted to make $20."
The two followed Cornett back to a Central Towers apartment, where Smith took the girl who wasn't his cousin into the bathroom.
Cornett's cousin declined to participate in the ruse, according to the criminal complaint.
Cornett said he didn't believe the girls were in any danger.
"It wasn't like she was going to harm them," Cornett said, "and I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, but I've learned that ignorance is no excuse with the law."
The female minor Smith took into the bathroom testified that Smith "said I was going to act like her daughter because she needed money, and she was going to get money for me acting like her daughter." Smith proceeded to dress her in two different outfits and did her hair and makeup, the minor testified. She also said Smith gave her a "white, longish" pill intended to alleviate hives that had developed on her arms.
"Were you afraid not to do what she said?" Gray asked the girl.
"Sort of," the minor replied.
"Were you afraid to leave?" Gray asked.
"Yes," the minor said.
The minor said Smith promised her money - either $20 or $50 - for pretending to be her daughter, and that after Smith dressed her, the two got in a truck with Tincher, who drove them to Wendy's to get something to eat.
"She (Smith) told (Tincher) I needed medicine and all this stuff," the minor said. "She got like $200 from him. She told me 'If you keep hanging out with me, he'll take us to the mall.'"
When she was in the truck with Tincher and Smith, the minor asked to use Smith's phone to call her parents. Prior to encountering Cornett, the two female minors had been planning to spend the night at Cornett's cousin's house, so when the minor called her parents, she told her mom that she was already at her friend's house and asked to spend the night. Her mom said yes.
Gray asked the minor if Smith had touched her in any way during the course of their interaction.
"At Wendy's, when she was acting like I was her daughter, she put her arm around me and rubbed my legs," the minor said.
"And did that make you feel uncomfortable?" Gray asked.
"Yes," the minor answered.
The minor's mother, Sherry Nicholson, testified that upon learning her daughter was missing, she called the phone number her daughter had called from - the number to Smith's cell phone.
"(Smith) answered and said she was Shelly, one of (my daughter's) friends, and I said, 'my daughter doesn't have any friends named Shelly,'" Nicholson testified. "She said, 'we're just chilling, we're getting something to eat and we'll be home in a little bit.'"
Nicholson said she told Smith, "you have 10 minutes to get my daughter home" and asked to speak with her daughter, but Smith hung up.
In a panicked attempt to reach her daughter, Nicholson repeatedly called Smith's cell phone, but Smith kept hitting the "decline" button, Nicholson testified.
"I did not know this woman," Nicholson said emphatically. "She had no permission to have my daughter in any way, shape or form."
Tincher and Smith brought the minor back to Central Towers soon after the trip to Wendy's, where the mother of Cornett's cousin was waiting in a van to pick her up, according to the minor's testimony.
The minor said that Smith wouldn't let her leave initially and instead insisted that she go upstairs to the apartment to return the clothes Smith had dressed her in.
When the minor's dad picked her up from the Central Towers apartments, the minor was significantly shaken up, her mother said.
"When she got home, she was vomiting, she was ill, she was scared to death," Nicholson said.
Smith's attorney, William T. Nestor, argued that Smith didn't actually "take" the minor - Cornett did, he said, and noted that his client had allowed the minor to contact her mother.
"I clearly believe something awkward happened, but I don't think it's actionable," Nestor said. "It's a conglomeration of a whole lot of weird stuff that doesn't fit the law books of this state. It's a little strange, yes, but illegal, no."
Shepler begged to differ on the question of whether or not anything illegal had taken place, saying it is illegal for a person to falsely use someone or something to obtain money or goods.
In addition to finding probable cause, Shepler refused to modify Smith's bond, which is set at $50,000 cash or surety.
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.