Judge orders man to stand trial in abduction of girl

May 14, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County Magistrate Judge Sandy Miller ruled Tuesday that a Kearneysville, W.Va., man will stand trial on charges he abducted a 7-year-old girl who was taken from her home while sleeping.

Leonard Austin "Tinker" Ellinger Jr., 32, of 129 Evergreen Drive, was charged with abduction and night-time burglary. He will continue to be held on $750,000 bond at the Eastern Regional Jail.

Sexual assault allegations remain under investigation but no charges have been filed, the prosecutor and sheriff's investigators said at Tuesday's preliminary hearing.


Ellinger initially was kept out of the hearing while it was determined whether the 7-year-old girl would testify.

The girl told investigators she was taken from her home while sleeping and then taken to a remote area of Jefferson County and sexually assaulted.

"Putting her through this will just add to the trauma," said Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Hassan Rasheed.

After Rasheed said she would not be called, Ellinger was led into the courtroom.

Mother weeps quietly

The victim's mother, sitting in the back of the courtroom, wept quietly. When witnesses were told they would be excluded from the hearing she walked out.

The girl's name is not being published due to the nature of the allegations.

Sgt. K.C. Bohrer testified that deputies were called about 7 a.m. on May 6 after the girl, huddled with a blanket, was found outside an industrial plant entrance, Bohrer said.

The girl told the first investigator, Cpl. John D. Vanorsdale Jr., that she woke up in a strange man's car in the middle of the night, Bohrer said. She had been asleep in the living room on a sofa, investigators said.

The girl rode in the cruiser with Vanorsdale and showed him where she had been taken, Bohrer said.

Bohrer followed in his cruiser as they went from her home in the Middle Creek Village trailer park down Sulfur Springs Road and other back roads until they crossed the Opequon Creek into Jefferson County.

They ended up at the end of a dirt lane, Bohrer said.

Remembering details

She paid attention to details around her in the car, the roads they took, the way the car's radio did not work and the way the front seat reclined, Bohrer said. She also described in detail the way the man looked, the scars on his body and the tattoos on his forearms, Bohrer said.

"She really impressed me, surprised me, with her recollection," Bohrer said.

She said the man smelled of alcohol, Bohrer said.

When they arrived at the end of the dirt road, the man stopped and reached over to her, Bohrer said.

The girl told investigators that the man tore her underpants off and touched her "private parts," Bohrer said.

The girl was taken to City Hospital in Martinsburg for an examination, Bohrer said. After the exam, the girl was taken back to the sheriff's department and interviewed further, Bohrer said.

"The little girl was very consistent," Bohrer said. "Several times during the interview . . . I tried to say different things to trick her. Each time she corrected me," he said.

The suspect's description was released to the public and an anonymous tip led to Ellinger, Bohrer said.

Ellinger, a friend of the ex-husband of the girl's mother, had been to the trailer home once about a year ago, Vanorsdale testified.

Ellinger was arrested by deputies from Jefferson and Berkeley counties and West Virginia State Police troopers at his work site in Bardane, W.Va.

Drinking and drugs

Through Ellinger and other witnesses, investigators learned Ellinger had started drinking with a cousin about 5 p.m. on May 5, according to testimony Tuesday.

Ellinger told of an argument he had with his girlfriend that day, and said he had smoked crack cocaine with his cousin, who was dropped off at home about 3:30 a.m. May 6, deputies said.

Investigators believe that the girl was taken sometime after that, Bohrer said.

Ellinger denied being involved in the girl's abduction, but at one point told an investigator that he woke up and found the girl in his car on the morning of May 6, Bohrer testified.

During cross-examination, public defender Jerry Dambrow asked several times whether Ellinger had been read his Miranda rights that say he can have an attorney present during questioning and whether he had asked for an attorney.

Bohrer and Vanorsdale both said that Ellinger had been told of his rights.

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