TACOMA - In the latest twist to the case of 3-year-old Lenoria Jones, family members spoke publicly for the first time last night and contended the child was abducted while shopping with her aunt Thursday.
At a press conference in front of their Hilltop home, the family defended the aunt, Berlean Williams, and appealed to the public for help in locating the girl.
Police say Williams originally reported Lenoria disappeared while the two were shopping at a Target department store. On Friday, she said she knew where Lenoria was and that the child was OK but wouldn't reveal the child's whereabouts.
Last night, as Williams stood in the background, William's daughter, Narissa Johnson, read a statement that said the aunt's changing stories were due to her being distraught and nervous. She gave this account:
Williams and Lenoria both walked toward the store. "Lenoria asked, `Can I have a toy?' While walking, Mom responded, `Once we finish looking for me a bathing suit, we can go look for a toy.' "
Williams said she didn't look back but heard Lenoria respond, "OK."
Williams went into the store thinking the child was behind her. When she reached the bathing suits she discovered Lenoria wasn't with her.
Family members insist someone has kidnapped the child, whose mother is in Arkansas and who has been in Williams' custody for about a year. The father's identity isn't known.
"`Where is she?' We continue to ask each other these questions ourselves and to each other and to God. Only God knows where Lenoria is," Johnson said.
After finishing the statement, the family took no questions and went back inside the house.