The first the world heard about the discovery of a missing 15-year-old girl locked in a small closet was on June 6, 2007. That was the day the police of Bloomfield, Connecticut, found the teen under the stairs of a house in the nearby suburb of West Hartford. The female was found in the home of one Adam Gault, a 41-year-old small businessman. The unfortunate girl’s parents should have been relieved that she was still alive; she had gone missing a year before. But, at first, things appeared to be not quite so straightforward. Indeed, as well as uncovering the missing child’s whereabouts, it appeared that the police had exposed a very unsavory story all round.
Police had actually attended Gault’s address that day to exercise a search warrant they had obtained in relation to the case. The cops were strictly out for evidence and had no expectations that they would find the disappeared daughter there. The girl had gone missing from her parent’s home in Bloomfield on June 14, 2006, when she was just 14 years old. Since she had been missing for almost a year by this point, the authorities believed that in all likelihood the teenager was dead.
Officers found the missing girl in a tiny, locked cupboard under the staircase at the West Hartford property. The door to the small storage place had been concealed by a large desk. The closet space itself measured just three feet high, and the search party did not believe that the child had been living in there. But where had she been for the last 12 months? In early reports, the police revealed that they suspected that the teen may have been involved in the plot for her own disappearance. In fact, they believed it was possible that she had gone to Gault’s place to escape sexual abuse at her family home.
Nevertheless, despite this theory, Gault and two other women who lived at the West Hartford address, his 40-year-old common-law wife, Ann Murphy, and roomer Kimberley Cray, 26, were arrested. Subsequently, conspiracy charges were brought against all three – risk of injury to a minor and unlawful restraint.
It emerged that Gault was a sometime business associate of the missing girl’s parents. But more sinisterly, this is not where the connection ended. Apparently the 41-year-old had spoken on the phone to the then 14-year-old many times in the weeks before she had disappeared. Moreover, Gault had previously fallen under suspicion for what police described as “inappropriate relationships” with teenage girls. Nonetheless, no charges had ever been brought relating to these indiscretions.
For these reasons, Gault had been under surveillance for some time, but the authorities had been unable to act until the missing teen’s mother made a gross discovery. In fact, the warrant to search the suspect’s home was issued because the mom had presented a pair of the girl’s underwear stained with semen. The item had been analyzed by state forensics and DNA had successfully been extracted. Police had arrived at Gault’s house with a court order to search the premises and a DNA testing kit. But then they had actually stumbled across the cupboard door.
Indeed, it was all looking bleak for Gault, bearing in mind his past conduct, the incriminating phone calls, and the discovery of the AWOL teen on his property. And now he had the shadow of a potentially damning DNA result hanging over his head. Nevertheless, one member of the West Hartford household seemed up for the fight at the first court appearance, the day after the discovery of the teenager. According to U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail on June 8, Michael Georgetti, attorney for housemate Cray, was quite clear. The defender declared, “The girl was never molested in that house. There are no allegations of molestation.”
Georgetti continued by pointing to the police suspicions that the teen’s troubles had originated far closer to home. The attorney claimed, “The missing girl did file a complaint with the Bloomfield Police Department over a year ago, claiming sexual and physical abuse in her own home. Nothing was done about it, and so she ran away.” Furthermore, Gault’s own defense had referred to this version of events in court, saying, “He [Gault] has not been charged with kidnapping. There is no indication of the use of force.”
So a picture was emerging that seemed to confound initial appearances. At least, a version of events that Gault, Murphy and Cray were keen for the world to see. The teen had been at their West Hartford house entirely voluntarily and nothing untoward had happened to her there. The abused girl had actually taken refuge at their address from the abuse she had been suffering in her family home.
Meanwhile, as well as the stained underwear, the teenager’s mother had also found her daughter’s diary. And according to this written journal, the girl had entered into a sexual relationship with Gault a year before her disappearance at the age of 13. If this had indeed be the case, the 41-year-old would have been guilty of at least a serious statutory rape.
Moreover, the diary also said that the child had been introduced by Gault to liquor and narcotics. Apparently, the girl had got to know the man through his dog grooming business. He had given her a job helping out with the animals, and things had allegedly developed from there.
At the conclusion of the trio’s first court appearance, Gault was remanded on a $1-million bond, while his common-law wife, Murphy, was held on $750,000 and Cray $500,000. These stiff bail conditions attracted comment from defense attorney Georgetti to reporters after the hearing.
NBC News reported on Georgetti’s address outside the courtroom. “If you were taking actions to prevent someone from being abused, that is not a crime,” the attorney insisted. “We can protect animals from abuse. I think we should be able to protect children from abuse.” Again, the story seemed to be that Gault and the two women had actually provided the poor girl with a safe haven in West Hartford.
Indeed, Georgetti went on to claim that during the year the teen had lived at Gault’s house, she had been provided with her own cell phone. Also, incredibly, he said that the missing girl had even been attending school. Although Georgetti conceded that the teenager had been hiding on the day of the search, he insisted that the girl’s movements had not been in any way restricted. But, nonetheless, some of the cops involved in this puzzling case were skeptical of this line of defense – to say the least.
Captain Lori Coppinger spoke somewhat enigmatically, perhaps with one eye on future legal proceedings, to NBC News in June 2007. The West Hartford Police Department officer said, “Information that we have would lead us in another direction as to what [the missing girl’s] welfare was at this time.” And Coppinger went on to deny the claim that the child had been attending school or that Gault’s house had been in any way a place of safety.
In fact, it would be another year before the sordid and disturbing truth about events at the Gault household emerged. By the time the case came before Hartford Superior Court in July 2008, the original charges had become more serious. Apparently, those DNA results had come back. Gault now faced eight felony charges, including four second-degree sexual assault offenses and two first-degree kidnapping counts. And what’s more, Gault had pleaded guilty to all charges.
At the same court hearing before Superior Court Judge David P. Gold, the two female defendants also held up their hands. Murphy and Cray pleaded guilty to charges that included kidnapping and risk of injury to a minor. And it was during prosecution evidence that the sickening truth of the now 16-year-old’s 12-month-long ordeal came to light.
It turned out that Gault was a predatory pervert. Marc N. Needelman, the prosecuting attorney, described to the court how Gault had groomed the girl. He had first offered the teen work at his business and then introduced her to liquor and marijuana. And things got much, much worse. During the 12 months at the West Hartford address, Gault “repeatedly raped” the child. He would frequently video his crimes and when the girl conceived, Gault forced her to have the pregnancy terminated. Needelman said, “Every day and every night, [she] relives the horrors of her year-long captivity.”
Needelman requested lengthy sentences, and Judge Gold obliged. Gault was handed a 50-year sentence, with an additional 20 years probation and registration as a sex offender. The judge sentenced both Murphy and Cray to ten years suspended after three and five year’s probation, respectively. The fiction that these people had protected the girl in any way was shattered. But there was one more twist to the tale…
Before the sentencing, the prosecuting Needelman had an important announcement to make about his client. The 16-year-old no longer desired anonimity, and wanted the world to know that she was in fact Danielle Erica Cramer. Needelman said, “From this day forth, Danielle will be known as Danielle and will be proud of her life.” Nevertheless, subsequently the young woman had a change of heart and identity. She now lives with an assumed name and history. It is to be hoped that she has managed to put the events of those awful 12 months behind her, and she has somehow found the strength to get on with the rest of her life.