(TACOMA, Wash.) — A woman accused of posing as a baby photographer in a twisted plot to kidnap a mother’s newborn daughter was arraigned Tuesday afternoon in a Tacoma, Washington, courtroom and ordered held on $150,000 bail by a judge who deemed her a threat to children.
Juliette Lelani Parker, who last year ran for mayor of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is accused of showing up at the victim’s home with her own teenage daughter earlier this month and drugging the victim with a tainted cupcake.
Parker, 38, abandoned her abduction attempt when the young mother became ill and asked the suspect and her daughter to leave, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case.
Parker, who also goes by several aliases, appeared in Pierce County Superior Court, where her attorney entered not guilty pleas to charges of second-degree attempted kidnapping and second-degree assault.
Before Parker was handcuffed and removed from the courtroom, prosecutor Fred Wist told Judge Craig Adams that Parker is a flight risk and that she has family in Colorado and in Texas.
Wist said “given the sophistication” of the crimes Parker is accused of, his office believes there is a chance “she is likely to commit a violent offense if she is allowed to remain” free.
Parker was initially arrested on Feb. 14 and released on $50,000 bail that was posted by her father, who lives in Texas.
The victim in the case, Elysia Miller, watched the brief hearing from the front row of the courtroom, where she sat with detectives who investigated the crime.
Following the hearing, Miller said she is terrified that Parker is going to get out of jail.
“Since this happened, I am terrified to be at my house. I don’t go anywhere. I don’t like being at home. I’m not sleeping. I’m not eating. I carry a machete, a knife and pepper spray at my house and in my car. I sleep with a knife under my pillow as a result of this,” Miller said at a news conference.
She said seeing Parker in court, was “scary.”
“I’m terrified she’s going to get back out,” Miller said. “This is my kids. This is my house. She violated that. She violated my safety, tried to kidnap my daughter. I’m terrified she could come back. Anything could happen. She could be successful next time and take her, take my other child. Anything is possible.”
Prosecutors said the attempted kidnapping of Parker’s infant occurred on Feb. 5 after Miller answered an ad Parker placed on Facebook, offering to take photos of newborn babies for free, saying she was attempting to build a portfolio.
Miller said that after she answered the Facebook post in January, Parker made two visits to her home. On a third visit, Parker arrived with her 16-year-old daughter and offered Miller wine and cupcakes that Parker said she had baked.
“She offered me a glass of wine and they pressured me to try the cupcakes,” Miller said on Tuesday. “As I ate one, my lips and face started to feel numb. I saw the photographer wiping down her wine glass and other items in my house. My legs and arms started to go numb and I repeatedly told the photographer and her daughter to leave my house.”
She said that after Parker and her daughter left, she noticed her house keys were missing and that she started to vomit uncontrollably.
Miller called 911 and was taken to the hospital, where she told doctors what happened.
“They tested my blood and told me that my symptoms sounded like what someone would experience if they were exposed to GHB or the date-rape drug,” Miller said.
She said that as soon as she left the hospital she contacted the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, which immediately launched an investigation.
Parker’s daughter, whose name has not been released because she is a juvenile, was also taken into custody on charges of attempted kidnapping and assault, and is being detained at a juvenile facility, Wist said.
During the investigation, detectives came in contact with a man who had been involved in a dating relationship with Parker.
“Communications between the two establish that prior to Thanksgiving 2019, the defendant contacted the male and asked him if he could get GHB and talked about how they should get a kid from a homeless person and raise the child together in a nice house,” according to the probable cause affidavit.
The affidavit alleges that Parker, who also has a 10-year-old son, told the man she had been dating that “she would marry him on the spot if he found her a baby girl in the next five weeks,” according to the affidavit.
The same man told detectives he spoke to Parker’s teenage daughter who allegedly told him that Parker “wants a baby girl more than anything, one that she can call her own,” according to the affidavit.
The daughter also allegedly told the man “that she knows where they could get a baby and specifically referred to kidnapping,” the affidavit states.
Parker’s attorney, Ephraim Benjamin, scoffed at the charges and dismissed the prosecution’s case as “a lot of smoke.”
“She is maintaining her innocence and she intends to fight these charges to the best of her ability,” said Benjamin, adding that Parker has received death threats since news of the case broke.
Benjamin asked Judge Adams to allow Parker to remain free on the original $50,000 bail and offered to have Parker wear an electronic monitoring device.
Benjamin argued that he had previously represented Parker in 2014 in a case in which she was charged with felony reckless burning in the second degree, and that Parker attended all her hearings. He said the case was eventually resolved when Parker was convicted of a misdemeanor.
Benjamin also told Adams that Parker suffers from bone cancer and is on medication. Wist, the prosecutor, immediately asked that Parker produce medical records proving her illness.
In the end, Adams rejected Benjamin’s argument, ordering Parker to be remanded to the custody of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office immediately.
Adams said he had to weigh the “safety and security of small children” in the community if Parker was released.
“The allegations are such that that safety and security has been threatened significantly,” Adams said. “As a consequence, the court cannot ignore that. I have to pay attention to that safety and security of those small children who are effectively defenseless.”
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