Attorney: New Jersey Teen Abandoned in Woods Bears Emotional Scars

February 2, 2009

A woman who says she was deceived and abandoned by her angry friends in the woods of northern New Jersey on a frigid night bears scars both physical and emotional from her ordeal, her lawyer said Friday.

Three women who police say were upset with the victim over a car insurance claim are accused of telling her they were taking her to a party, only to dump her by the side of the road in an unfamiliar area. The woman was left wearing only a dress, a thin jacket and one shoe; the temperature outside was 8 degrees.

The 19-year-old woman was outside for more than an hour on the snow-lined road before a passing motorist took her to a hospital, said Albert Wunsch, her attorney. She suffered frostbite to her feet.

She is too distraught to publicly discuss the Jan. 16 kidnapping and would be a “basket case” if she tried to be interviewed about it by the news media, Wunsch said. Police have not revealed her name, nor would her lawyer.

“It’s just a very tragic thing that’s eroded her sense of trust; these were friends of hers,” Wunsch said. “As of now, she still doesn’t have any feeling in her toes, and they’re still trying to do all kinds of therapies and injections to improve that.”

The alleged kidnapping didn’t come to the attention of police until the victim reported it Jan. 20.

“It was definitely a concerted attempt to make sure she was incommunicado,” Wunsch said. “Even if she had had her cell phone, she could not have told anyone where she was.”

Maria Contreras-Luciano, 22, of Dumont, and Amber Crespo, 20, and Dyanne Velasquez, 21, both of North Bergen, face kidnapping, assault and conspiracy charges and are free on $200,000 bail. Crespo is also charged with making terroristic threats toward the victim.

Authorities have said the suspects wanted revenge after the victim sued Crespo’s auto insurance carrier for undisclosed reasons. Crespo’s attorney has said that his client had no idea that an attack was planned and that she was not part of any dispute.

Lt. Frank Cannella said the trio dragged the woman from their car by her hair in a wooded, sparsely traveled area between the Hudson River town of Alpine and New York’s Tallman Mountain State Park.

Cannella said Friday that two of the three suspects are cooperating with investigators and have acknowledged they had no intention of attending a party, but he would not say who they were. Attorneys for two of the three suspects did not return phone and e-mail messages Friday, and attorney information for the third was not available.

Marvin Walden, attorney for Crespo, said Thursday that his client had no idea what she was getting into and was not part of any conspiracy. He said the dispute was between one of the other women and the 19-year-old and was about a man, not an insurance claim.

According to Wunsch, the 19-year-old only saw five cars in more than an hour on the side of the snow-lined road. The first motorist to stop allowed her to make a single phone call but would not let her inside the vehicle. The incredulous teen, who had been outside about 20 minutes at that point, telephoned her friends.

“She saw a deer crossing the road while she was out there and that freaked her out,” Wunsch said. “She’s a city girl.”

The motorist who finally stopped to help the teen was David Laske, 38, of Nyack, N.Y., according to The Record of Bergen County. Laske, a waiter, said he was driving to work when he spotted a desperate-looking, barefoot woman.

The 19-year-old told him she was a “good girl” before describing what had taken place. Laske says the woman couldn’t feel that he had turned the heat on high to warm her blue, frostbitten feet, as he drove her to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.

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