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Archive for Friday, June 8, 2007

Abduction case takes unusual twist

Report of girl found year after she went missing prompts claims of abuse by other girls

June 8, 2007

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— A girl who vanished a year ago and was found hidden in a room in a man's home assumed a new identity that made her part of his family, authorities said Thursday, as they investigated whether the man had inappropriate relationships with her and other girls.

The man, Adam Gault, 41, was arrested and charged Wednesday in her disappearance after police served a search warrant and found the missing 15-year-old girl locked in a hidden closet-like room in his house. The girl, who had a history of running away from home, vanished a year ago.

Gault, a dog trainer, was arrested with two women who lived in the house, 40-year-old Ann Murphy and Kimberly Cray, 26. The three were arraigned Thursday, charged with conspiracy to commit unlawful restraint, conspiracy to commit risk of injury to a minor and interfering with police.

Gault's bond was set at $1 million. Murphy, whom police described as Gault's common-law wife, was held on $750,000 bond. Cray's bond was set at $500,000. Gault's attorney, Frank Canace, could not be reached for comment.

Police said the girl later ran away from home and moved in with Gault, who lives in nearby West Hartford and worked with the girl's stepfather years ago.

Since Gault's arrest, the department has received multiple calls from people inside and outside the state who claim Gault abused them, Blatter said.

"We are looking into all of those now," he said.

Safe haven?

Cray's attorney, Michael Georgetti, told reporters that before the girl disappeared, she reported to police she had been sexually abused, though he said no arrests were made.

Bloomfield police said Gault filed a sexual abuse complaint on her behalf that said she had been abused by a family friend before she vanished in 2006. There was insufficient evidence and the complaint was closed, Bloomfield police Capt. Jeffrey Blatter said.

Georgetti said Cray and the others were offering the girl a safe haven. She lived in Gault's house for a year, attended school and owned a cell phone, Georgetti said. He said that she was hiding from police Wednesday but was otherwise free to come and go.

"If you were taking actions to prevent someone from being abused, that is not a crime," Georgetti said. "We can protect animals from abuse. I think we should be able to protect children from abuse."

West Hartford police Capt. Lori Coppinger, however, said the girl was not attending school and disputed Georgetti's claim that the teen had been offered a safe haven.

"Information that we have would lead us in another direction as to what her welfare was at this time," she said.

Investigators believe the girl sometimes traveled out of state and assumed a new identity while living with Gault, Blatter said. The FBI is investigating the out-of-state travels.

"She was compelled to use a new name, to assume a new identity," Blatter told The Associated Press. "She did assume a name that would suggest she was part of that family."

Family reunion

The girl's stepfather told WCBS-TV in an interview Thursday that her mother had been allowed to spend a few hours with her Wednesday.

"She's having some issues," he said of the girl. "She didn't even know who she was."

The girl's stepfather said family members, who own a kennel and dog day care in Bloomfield, had limited information about what had happened to the girl in the year she was gone.

"Every parent's nightmare was mine," the girl's mother told reporters Thursday. "I can never describe the horror of losing a child and having to maintain a family at the same time and having to go on."

The teen had no obvious external injuries. Investigators would not speculate on what she might have experienced during the past year or whether she was held against her will.

Blatter said the girl remained in protective custody Thursday so investigators could continue talking with her.

Police said they had already established that Gault knew the missing girl, and said he and the girl's parents had some sort of undisclosed business transaction in the year before she disappeared.

Officers had questioned Gault several times, but he always denied any involvement in her disappearance. They served a search warrant on his home Wednesday morning, seeking a DNA sample and other evidence.

The girl was held in a locked tiny room, 7 feet long and less than 3 feet high. The doorway was hidden by a bureau.

A 16-year-old boy identified in court documents as Murphy's son was also living at the house.

He was placed in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families, which also will decide whether the missing girl should be returned to her parents.

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