An Australian man faces up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty Monday afternoon to abducting a 4-year-old who was camping last year, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Terence Darrell Kelly, 36, confessed to abducting Cleo Smith and was convicted of forcibly kidnapping a child under 16 years of age. He pleaded guilty during a virtual court hearing from a Perth prison, where he is currently being held, according to the AP. Kelly has not entered a plea for several other charges, including assaulting a public officer, that will be adjudicated at a later date.
The 4-year-old girl was camping with her family on Australia’s west coast in October 2021, when she disappeared in the middle of the night while staying in a tent. The family — more than 60 miles away from their home — said the tent zipper was open in the morning and that she was kidnapped, the AP reported. (RELATED: Chilling Audio Captures Moment Little Girl Is Found After Going Missing In The Middle Of The Night)
18 days after disappearing in Australia from her family’s camping tent – 4-year-old Cleo Smith is back home.
Police and her family say they never gave up hope. pic.twitter.com/vq8yzjZ5p2
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) November 3, 2021
The disappearance of Smith sparked outrage in Australia after she went missing for 18 days. Police initiated a nationwide search as her parents pleaded for their daughter to be returned safely.
In November 2021, authorities released audio that captured the moment she was found alone in a Carnarvon house.
“We’ve got her, we’ve got her,” an officer is heard saying at the beginning of the clip. The child was then asked her name. She hesitated at first, but replied with “My name is Cleo.”
“You’re all right, bubby,” the officer reassured her.