Michael Ray McCormick (Photo source: Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office)
David Scott Stapp (Photo source: Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office)
Michael Ray McCormick (Photo source: Bajalia Law Firm)
VALDOSTA, GA (WLOX) -
A Biloxi man accused of kidnapping a girl from a Georgia elementary school on Aug. 14, 2015 will appear before a Superior Court judge in Lowndes County, GA, on Monday. Attorney Nick Bajalia is asking for the kidnapping and criminal attempt to commit a felony charges against his client to be dropped.
Bajalia is representing Michael Ray McCormick. Bajalia said he has been concerned and disturbed by inaccurate information that was reported just after the alleged kidnapping happened.
McCormick was indicted on kidnapping, criminal attempt to commit a felony, disrupting public school and three counts of simple battery charges on Nov. 23, 2015. His friend, David Scott Stapp, was charged as a party to the crime on each of those charges.
According to a news release from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office that was sent to WLOX just hours after the alleged kidnapping, McCormick and Stapp flew from Ocean Springs to Valdosta, GA, in a private plane and attempted to snatch the 5-year-old from the playground of Westside Elementary School.
The news release said the men pushed down a teacher who was trying to stop them from taking the child off school property. McCormick and Stapp were arrested about 10 minutes later near the Valdosta Regional Airport, and the child was “safely recovered.”
According to investigators with the sheriff’s office, McCormick was the non-custodial parent of the child.
Court documents filed by the defense say the initial report is riddled with errors. For instance, defense attorneys argue McCormick and Stapp didn’t “snatch” the child from the school playground, and they say the defendants never pushed down the teacher. Both allegations were made in the Aug. 14, 2015 news release sent out by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.
The court documents also point out that McCormick is not the non-custodial parent of the child as the news release claims, and he and the child’s mother have equal rights under Mississippi law. The child was born out of wedlock at Keesler Air Force Base in January 2010.
According to the documents, no custody order had been entered at the time of the alleged kidnapping, although McCormick was established as the natural father on the child’s birth certificate.
In fact, McCormick filed a petition for establishment of temporary and permanent custody in Harrison County Chancery Court on March 9, 2015, and a hearing had been scheduled for Aug. 28.
The documents show that on July 23, 2015, the child’s mother, Andrea Hope Smith, “abducted” her from Cedar Lake Christian Academy in Biloxi and took her to Lowndes County, GA. Smith is in the Air Force and had recently been transferred to Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, according to the documents.
In the documents, the defense insists McCormick had the legal authority to take his daughter from Westside Elementary, just like Smith had the legal authority to take her from Cedar Lake Christian Academy.
The documents claim McCormick has provided exclusive daily care for the girl for more than half of her life, and she lived with him between April 2014 and April 2015 while Smith was voluntarily deployed in Korea. The child remains listed under McCormick’s basic allowance for housing with the United States Air Force.
The court documents point out that McCormick is a highly decorated combat veteran and a Captain in the United States Air Force Reserves. He served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and 2008.
If convicted of kidnapping, McCormick faces up to 25 years in prison and probation for life.
Stapp is also due in court Monday, but Bajalia represents only McCormick.