Missing Girl Found, as Questions About Abuse Surface

Jennifer Hesse, the mother of a girl who disappeared a year ago and was found Wednesday by police beneath the staircase of a Connectituct home, today disputed allegations that her family's abuse drove the teen to run away and seek shelter with the three suspects arrested in connection to the case.

"Every parent's nightmare was mine. Every parent has nightmares about it, I was having them more fluently," Hesse said.

The girl, Danielle Cramer, had been missing for a year when police found her at a home in West Hartford. Today, her mother responded to allegations made by the attorney of Kimberly Cray, a 26-year-old resident of the West Hartford house after she and two others were charged at Hartford Superior Court.

"This is a case of individuals trying to protect a young girl from being physically assaulted and sexually assaulted," said Michael Georgetti, Cray's lawyer. Georgetti also said that the girl had a cell phone, attended school and was free to go where she pleased.

"Danielle is very happy to see her mother, very much wants to see her whole family," said Hesse, who met with her daughter, now 15, for the first time in a year on Wednesday night.

The girl remains in protective custody and has received medical attention. Ealier today, Capt. Jeff Blatter, a spokesman for the Bloomfield Police Department, said that the girl was "in a state of confusion." Bloomfield police made the discovery Wednesday with West Hartford police.

Investigators also said that the girl had been forced by her captors to use a new name. Cell phone records showed she had frequent contact with 41-year-old Adam Gault, a dog trainer from West Hartford who previosuly had worked for the girl's family, before her disappearance. Gault was interviewed multiple times by authortities, inlcuding four days after the girl initially went missing.

The Hartford Courant reported today that a diary written by the girl and provided by her family to authorities had details that indicated a consensual sexual relationship between herself and Gault. The newspaper also reported that police are investigating a possible "flophouse" where they believe Gault may have had sexual relations with Danielle and other local underage women. Police said Gault even tried to help authorities remove the girl from her parent's house before she disappeared, according to the newspaper's report.

Police discovered the girl Wednesday locked inside a low-ceiling storage space under a staircase that was concealed by furniture.

She had been missing since June 16, 2006, and was found when Bloomfield police went to the West Hartford home to execute warrants and collect DNA evidence from Gault, who had been questioned multiple times during the yearlong missing person investigation. The small room where the girl was found was blocked from view by a large bookcase.

"We can all assume the 14-year-old [sic] under the influence of a 40-year-old [sic] has been harmed in some way," Blatter said, adding that her parents had been notified and were cooperating with the investigation.

Gault was charged with second-degree unlawful restraint, second-degree reckless endangerment, second-degree custodial interference, interfering with an officer, risk of injury to a minor and second-degree forgery. He was held on $1 million bond.

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