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Seven Charged in Kidnapping Conspiracy

U.S. Attorney’s Office June 05, 2013
  • Southern District of Mississippi (601) 965-4480

JACKSON—Six individuals appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Ball in federal court today for conspiring to kidnap 6-year-old Jashayla Hopson from East Kemper Elementary School on April 30, 2013, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen.

Appearing in court today were:

  • Wanda Faye Dancy, 52, of DeKalb, Mississippi
  • Shamarius S. Ruffin, 25, of Porterville, Mississippi
  • Shaquayla S. Johnigan, 21, of Porterville, Mississippi
  • Joyce M. Johnigan, 42, of Porterville, Mississippi
  • Devonta Pollard, 18, of Porterville, Mississippi
  • James Shurman Johnigan, 39, of Porterville, Mississippi

If convicted, each of the above defendants faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Also charged in the criminal indictment is Jessie Mae Brown Pollard, 54, of Northport, Alabama, who is currently in federal custody and will be arraigned at a later date. If convicted of the charges against her, she faces a maximum penalty of life in prison and a $750,000 fine.

According to the Indictment, Jessie Mae Brown decided to kidnap Jashayla Hopson from East Kemper Elementary School. She contacted Wanda Faye Dancy, who worked at East Kemper Elementary School as a secretary and agreed to assist Jessie Mae Brown Pollard with the kidnapping.

On April 30, 2013, Jessie Mae Brown Pollard and Shamarious S. Ruffin traveled to East Kemper Elementary School in a car rented by Jessie Mae Brown Pollard. Pollard called Wanda Faye Dancy to determine the location of Jashayla Hopson within the school building. Dancy said Jashayla was in the library and described the clothing she was wearing. Dancy’s instructions were for Ruffin to go into the library and tell the librarian that “Miss Wanda said it was all right.” Ruffin went into the school library, gave the librarian Dancy’s message, and took Jashayla Hopson. Ruffin returned to the car with the child. Jessie Mae Brown Pollard then drove them to Bessemer, Alabama, where they checked into a hotel. Later, Jessie Mae Brown Pollard and Shamarious S. Ruffin went to a store in Bessemer and purchased a cell phone. Pollard activated the phone and sent the following text message to Jashayla’s mother: “don’t call the police I will call you later if you call the police [yo]u won’t see her again.”

Meanwhile, Jessie Mae Brown Pollard’s son, Devonta Pollard, drove to Boligee, Alabama; picked up Shaquayla S. Johnigan; and took her to meet Jessie Mae Brown Pollard. Pollard then gave the child, Jashayla Hopson, to Johnigan, who took Pollard’s rental car and traveled to Laurel, Mississippi, where she checked into a hotel room. Later, Jessie Mae Brown Pollard called Johnigan and told her to send a text message to Jashayla’s mother from the cell phone, which was still in the rental car, stating, “since you called police, I want $50,000 by 3 p.m., I will tell you location later.”

The following day, Shaquayla S. Johnigan received a call from Devonta Pollard stating that Jessie Mae Brown Pollard was “gone to take a polygraph.” Shaquayla S. Johnigan called Joyce M. Johnigan, who agreed to meet her in Vossburg, Mississippi. Together, Shaquayla S. Johnigan and Joyce M. Johnigan drove Jashayla Hopson to a remote location in East Central Mississippi and dropped her off near an unknown residence telling her that “her mom was in the trailer and to run up to it.”

Jessie Mae Pollard called Shaquayla S. Johnigan and told her to take the rental car to the USM campus and leave it, but instead she and Joyce Johnigan drove it into a ditch and threw the keys into a pond. Shaquayla S. Johnigan gave the black gym bag containing the broken cell phone to James Shurman Johnigan and told him to “get rid of it.” She also threw the key to the Laurel hotel room in the garbage. James Shurman Johnigan burned the black gym bag containing the broken Samsung phone.

The trial in this case is set for August 6, 2013, before United States District Judge William H. Barbour, Jr.

The public is reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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