MARTINSBURG, W.Va.—A 38-year-old woman accused of stealing a sport utility vehicle when it was occupied by a 16-year-old girl asleep in the back of the vehicle was found guilty Friday of kidnapping and grand larceny.
Overcome with emotion, Sara Allen Woods of Martinsburg began to shake and silently cried after the first of two verdicts by a jury of nine women and three women was read aloud by a deputy Berkeley County Circuit Court clerk.
Wiping her face with a tissue, Woods began to sob after the jury was released by presiding 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gina M. Groh, who directed the defendant to be taken to the Eastern Regional Jail.
A post-trial motions and sentencing hearing was scheduled for Jan. 5. A person convicted of kidnapping could face a life sentence in prison, but Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely indicated after the trial that she would not pursue the maximum sentence. Woods could face a one- to 10-year prison sentence or one year in jail for the grand larceny conviction, Games-Neely said.
The teen, while frightened, was not injured in what amounted to a carjacking case, Games-Neely said.
Carjacking is not a criminal offense according to state law but Games-Neely said it needs to be added to the criminal statutes.
Woods was indicted in May 2009 on charges of kidnapping and grand larceny in connection with the alleged carjacking, which occurred Dec. 14, 2008.
Police said Woods stole a Toyota RAV4 when it was parked outside the 7-Eleven store at 201 W. King St. in Martinsburg.
After the trial Friday, Games-Neely said the state stipulated in the trial that Woods might not have known the girl was in the back seat when she got into the vehicle.
The teen's mother was picking up food from a Chinese restaurant next to the 7-Eleven when the vehicle was stolen, police have said.
The girl awoke when Woods jerked the vehicle out of park, police have said, and refused to stop the car after the girl realized it wasn't her mother driving.
The victim's daughter called 911 for help, and Woods, who was traveling at a high speed, eventually stopped the vehicle at the ROCS Mountaineer Mart at the intersection of W.Va. 9 and Kelly Island Road, according to court documents.
The girl told police that during an altercation at ROCS, she twice punched the defendant in the face and managed to grab her mother's keys and mobile phone, according to court documents.
Woods was found by police outside a business near ROCS, and it was determined she was under the influence of alcohol, according to court records. She had a cut above her left eye, according to court documents.