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Assault evidence to be used in kidnapping trial

February 26, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

Assault evidence to be used in kidnapping trial

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Leonard Austin Ellinger Jr. has not been indicted by a Jefferson County grand jury on a sexual assault charge, but evidence of that allegation is allowable at his Berkeley County kidnapping trial next month, Berkeley County Circuit Court Judge David Sanders ruled Wednesday.

The ruling allows Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely to present sexual assault evidence at the Kearneysville, W.Va., man's March 24 trial.

He is accused of kidnapping a 7-year-old Inwood, W.Va., girl and taking her across the county line, where the girl said she was sexually assaulted.

Ellinger, 32, of 129 Evergreen Drive, will face a Jefferson County grand jury in April, the next time the grand jury convenes.

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By law, prosecutors cannot reveal who will be presented to the grand jury for indictment.

Sanders ruled the sexual assault evidence is so closely connected with the kidnapping case that it is permissible during his trial.

"It is so intrinsically related, the state could not present the entire picture without it," Games-Neely said. "(The evidence) goes not to prove sexual assault, but the kidnapping."

The girl was taken from her mobile home on May 5, 1997, while she slept. The girl told investigators that she was taken to a remote area in western Jefferson County near the Opequon Creek and sexually assaulted.

The kidnapper dropped her off the next day, about 10 hours later, on Industrial Park Road, where a passerby found her and called police, court records show.

The Berkeley County Sheriff's Office said at the time that the girl's mother was asleep when she was called and had been unaware her daughter was missing.

Ellinger was arrested May 7, 1997, in Bardane, W.Va., after the girl gave a description matching his appearance. She also gave authorities a description of the car, according to court records.

Ellinger has been in the Eastern Regional Jail since his arrest.

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