Jessica Hill  /  AP
A police officer on Wednesday removes evidence from the home in West Hartford, Conn., where a 15-year old girl missing for more than a year was found.
updated 6/8/2007 11:56:34 AM ET 2007-06-08T15:56:34

An attorney for one of three people accused in the disappearance of a 15-year-old girl said they were harboring her from abuse and allowed her to freely come and go from the house where police found her. Police and the girl's parents said that wasn't the case.

The girl, who vanished a year ago and was found by police Wednesday hidden in a closet-like room in the home of Adam Gault, 41, had assumed a new identity that made her part of Gault's family, authorities said.

Michael Georgetti, an attorney for Kimberly Cray, one of those charged in the girl's disappearance, said the girl had a cell phone and was allowed to attend school and come and go from the house freely.

The girl's mother told CNN Friday that her daughter denied being allowed to have a phone or attend school under her own name.

"There are no evidence to support that. She says otherwise," the mother said.

Gault was arrested with two women who lived in the house, 40-year-old Ann Murphy and Cray, 26. The three were arraigned Thursday, charged with conspiracy to commit unlawful restraint, conspiracy to commit risk of injury to a minor and interfering with police.

Abuse report filed earlier
Georgetti told reporters that before the girl disappeared, she reported to police she had been sexually abused, though he said no arrests were made.

Bloomfield police said Gault filed a sexual abuse complaint on her behalf that said she had been abused by a family friend before she vanished. There was insufficient evidence and the complaint was closed, police Capt. Jeffrey Blatter said.

Shortly afterward, the girl disappeared, running away from home and moving in with Gault in nearby West Hartford, police said. Gault, a dog trainer, worked years ago with the girl's stepfather.

Georgetti said the girl was hiding from police Wednesday but was otherwise free to come and go.

"If you were taking actions to prevent someone from being abused, that is not a crime," Georgetti said. "We can protect animals from abuse. I think we should be able to protect children from abuse."

West Hartford police Capt. Lori Coppinger, however, said the girl was not attending school and disputed Georgetti's claim that the teen had been offered a safe haven.

"Information that we have would lead us in another direction as to what her welfare was at this time," she said.

Mark Needelman, an attorney for the girl's parents, told CNN Friday that Georgetti was trying to create doubt.

"He's a defense attorney. He's paid to try and create doubt in terms of the guilt of his client or clients," Needelman said.

Investigators believe the girl sometimes traveled out of state and assumed a new identity while living with Gault, Blatter said. The FBI is investigating the out-of-state travels.

"She was compelled to use a new name, to assume a new identity," Blatter said. "She did assume a name that would suggest she was part of that family."

Suspect accused by others
Bloomfield police said that since Gault's arrest, they have received multiple calls from people inside and outside the state who claim Gault abused them. "We are looking into all of those now," Blatter said.

Coppinger said other girls may have experienced "something very similar to what's going on right now with this young girl."

The Associated Press is not identifying the girl because police are investigating if she was sexually abused. Authorities did not say how she altered her name.

The girl's stepfather told WCBS-TV Thursday that her mother had been allowed to spend a few hours with her Wednesday.

"She's having some issues," he said of the girl. "She didn't even know who she was."

He said family members had limited information about what had happened to the girl in the year she was gone.

"Every parent's nightmare was mine," the girl's mother said Thursday. "I can never describe the horror of losing a child and having to maintain a family at the same time and having to go on."

Blatter said the girl remained in protective custody Thursday so investigators could continue talking with her.

Cell phone records showed that Gault and the teen talked often before she vanished, Blatter said.

Officers had questioned Gault several times, but he always denied any involvement in her disappearance. They served a search warrant on his home Wednesday morning, seeking a DNA sample and other evidence.

The girl was held in a locked tiny room, 7 feet long and less than 3 feet high. The doorway was hidden by a bureau.

A 16-year-old boy identified in court documents as Murphy's son was also living at the house. He was placed in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families, which also will decide if the missing girl should be returned to her parents.

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