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Abduction suspect faces new charge

May 08, 1997

By DAVE McMILLION

and CLYDE FORD

Staff Writers

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Kearneysville, W.Va., man who was charged Wednesday with abducting a 7-year-old girl from her Berkeley County home was facing another charge Thursday, according to police.

Police obtained an arrest warrant for Leonard Austin Ellinger Jr., for the charge of nighttime burglary, entering without breaking, according to Capt. Curtis Keller of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

A conviction on the felony charge carries a prison sentence of one to 15 years, Keller said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the warrant had not been served on Ellinger, who was being held in the Eastern Regional Jail near Martinsburg on $700,000 bond, said Keller.

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Ellinger, 32, was charged Wednesday with abduction, which carries a minimum sentence of three years in prison and a maximum sentence of 10 years, said Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said.

Games-Neely said an abduction charge was filed instead of a kidnapping charge because of the way the law is written. The girl, who was carried out of her home while she was asleep, did not recognize the threat of force being used, a requirement for a kidnapping charge, Games-Neely said.

"The facts are unique in this case," Games-Neely said.

A kidnapping conviction carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, Games-Neely said.

Games-Neely said she will confer with Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Michael D. Thompson on how they will proceed with the case.

The girl was abducted Monday night or early Tuesday as she and her two brothers, ages 4 and 8, slept in their blue, double-wide mobile home in the Middle Creek Villages mobile home park, off U.S. 11 south of Martinsburg, police said.

She was taken to a remote section of western Jefferson County where she told police she was sexually assaulted. The girl was later found standing at Industrial Park Road near Inwood, police said.

Ellinger, who knew the girl's mother, was arrested Wednesday afternoon while he was working at Dalb, Inc., in the Bardane Industrial Park in Jefferson County, police said.

A woman who answered the door at Ellinger's home Thursday declined to comment.

Deputies said they seized clothing from Ellinger's neatly kept room at his house, which is in a subdivision in western Jefferson County off W.Va. 51.

Law enforcement officials are digging into the past record of Ellinger as they continue their investigation into the case. He has numerous convictions in Berkeley and Jefferson counties for alcohol offenses such as public intoxication.

In addition, Ellinger pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree attempted burglary on Oct. 2, 1985, in Onondaga County Circuit Court in New York, according to court records there.

His sentence in the case was unavailable.

The sexual assault allegation remained under investigation, deputies said.

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