Cleo Smith's Abductor Wanted Girl to 'Dress Up'

Terence Kelly is now paying for living out a fantasy: authorities
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2023 12:12 PM CDT
Cleo Smith's Abductor Wanted Girl to 'Dress Up'
Cleo Smith, right, and her mother Ellie Smith leave a house where they spent the night after 4-year-old Cleo was rescued in Carnarvon, Australia, Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021.   (Richard Wainwright/AAP Image via AP)

The man who kidnapped a 4-year-old girl from a campsite in Australia and held her captive for nearly three weeks was sentenced Wednesday. Terence Kelly received 13 years and six months in prison for the October 2021 abduction of Cleo Smith and won't be eligible for parole for 11 years, the BBC reports. The 37-year-old pleaded guilty in January 2022, per the Guardian. He snuck into the family's tent at the Blowholes campground and seized Cleo, still in her sleeping bag, "in relative silence," Western Australia's Director of Public Prosecutions Robert Owen told the court. Cleo's mother noticed her daughter was missing and an entrance to the tent was open, with the zip too high for Cleo to reach, around 6am.

Kelly had taken the girl to his home in Carnarvon, a short distance from her own family's home, held her in a room that could be locked from the outside, and turned up a radio to drown out Cleo's cries for her mother, per the BBC. He also told police he "roughed her up a few times" for talking back and tried to tie her up with sticky tape but failed because "she was a bit of a fighter," per the Guardian. The search for the 4-year-old made headlines around the world. She was finally rescued after 18 days when police traced a phone that pinged a tower near the campsite. Kelly, who'd friended Cleo's mother on Facebook after taking her daughter, has been held in prison ever since.

He admitted the crime fulfilled a "fantasy of having a little girl he could dress up, play and be with," per the Guardian. But "I wasn't planning to keep her forever," he told police. WA District Court Judge Julie Wager said no child "should have suffered the neurodevelopmental difficulties, the trauma, the grief and the neglect that [Kelly] suffered as a child and as a young person." Exposed to drugs and alcohol in the womb, he was taken from his drug-addicted mother at age 2. But "the fear and distress caused to [Cleo's parents] over those 18 days was immeasurable," Wager added. "The child's life and that of her family has been permanently impacted." (More Cleo Smith stories.)

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