Alabama basketball player charged in Kemper Co. kidnapping - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

7 accused of conspiring to kidnap 6-year-old

Jessie Mae Pollard is the accused ringleader in the kidnapping. (Source: Madison County Detention Center) Jessie Mae Pollard is the accused ringleader in the kidnapping. (Source: Madison County Detention Center)
KEMPER COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Six people appeared in federal court Wednesday accused of conspiring to kidnap 6-year-old Jashayla Hopson from East Kemper Elementary School April 30.

The accused ringleader in the kidnapping, Jessie Mae Pollard, was not in court. She is currently out of state getting a competency evaluation to see if she is fit to stand trial. Jessie Mae Pollard, 54, of Northport, AL, was arrested May 1. Pollard is a former Kemper County teacher and coach.

Pollard's son, 18-year-old Devonta Pollard, of Porterville, MS, was released on $10,000 bond Wednesday. Devonta Pollard was a University of Alabama basketball player. His lawyer says he won't be returning to the university and would be enrolling in a community college in Mississippi.

Shaquayla Johnigan, 21, Joyce Johnigan, 42, and James Johnigan, 39, all of Porterville, MS, are the other three suspects recently arrested in the case. James Johnigan was released on $10,000 bond. Shaquayla and Joyce Johnigan will have detention hearings next week.

Two other woman have been held in jail since their arrests May 3. Wanda Dancy, 52, of DeKalb, MS, was the secretary at East Kemper Elementary School. Shemarius Ruffin, 25, of Porterville, MS, is accused of going into the elementary school and telling the school's librarian that she had permission to take Jashayla.

According to the criminal indictment, after Jashayla was taken from the school, Jessie Mae Pollard and Ruffin took her to Bessemer, AL, in a rental car and checked into a hotel. Later, Jessie Mae Pollard and Ruffin allegedly bought a cell phone that was used to send a text message to Jashayla's mother that said: "don't call the police I will call you later if you call the police u won't see her again."

Devonta Pollard is accused of transporting Shaquayla Johnigan to meet Jessie Mae Brown Pollard that day. Jessie Mae Pollard then gave Jashayla to Shaquayla Johnigan who took the 6-year-old in the rental car to a hotel room in Laurel, MS. Later, Shaquayla Johnigan was instructed to send a text message to Jashayla's mother that stated "since you called police, I want $50,000 by 3 p.m., I will tell you location later," according to the indictment.

The following day, Shaquayla Johnigan met Joyce Johnigan in Vossburg, MS. The pair drove Jashayla to a remote location, dropped her off near an unknown residence and told her that her mother was in the trailer, according to the indictment.

Shaquayla and Joyce Johnigan then reportedly drove the rental car into a ditch and threw the keys into a pond.

James Shurman Johnigan is accused of burning a black gym bag with the cell phone used to send the text messages in it.

A trial has been set for Aug. 6 for the group. If convicted, each of the defendants, except Jessie Mae Pollard, faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000.

If convicted, Jessie Mae Pollard faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Jashayla's family discovered she was missing when she did not get off the school bus April 30. An Amber Alert was issued for Jashayla May 1. Local, state and federal authorities were involved in the search for her.

Around 1:30 p.m. May 1, the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department received a 911 call saying Jashayla had been found alone in Enterprise, MS.

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