Young Kidnap Victim Testifies
MIAMI (AP) _ The 10-year-old great-great-granddaughter of the founder of the Mueller egg noodle company testified Thursday about her abduction from school and four-day ordeal that ended with her abandoned in a cardboard box.
In less than an hour on the stand in federal court, Amanda Mueller spoke clearly and calmly about the kidnapping last Sept. 16. She said her captors, who allegedly sought a $1.5 million ransom, fed her cookies, sandwiches and soft drinks.
Prosecutor Theresa Van Vliet called Amanda as the government’s first witness, after opening statements and arguments by defense lawyers that the three defendants should be tried separately. The judge did not rule on the request.
Prosecutors say the three men, who are charged with extortion and conspiracy, asked for $1.5 million from Amanda’s father, real estate broker John Mueller. The family sold the noodle company several years ago.
District Judge Lenore Nesbitt talked quietly with Amanda before she began testimony. She asked her whether she knew what a lie was, and that it was wrong, which Amanda said she did.
Amanda said she watched television during her two days in an apartment and read a schoolbook during two days in a cardboard container made to hold a refrigerator.
She said she had sandwiches and a blanket in the box, which searchers found with her in a wooded area. Authorities said the girl was placed in the box after the ransom was arranged, but the money pickup was bungled. The men had tied her up with loose-fitting tape, with cloth underneath, but she easily freed herself, Amanda said.
She was called from her class at Naples Community School by a teacher who said a man from her father’s company was there to take her to a dental appointment, Amanda said. After they drove from the school, the man took her photo with an instant camera, she said.
When the abductors left her in the box, they told her: ″Daddy would come and pick me up,″ Amanda said.
In opening statements, Michael Tarkoff, attorney for defendant Edward O’Brien, claimed his client was an unwitting accomplice who did not know about the abduction.
″When the FBI came to his house and arrested him, he was sitting eating a pizza. He didn’t even know there was a kidnap,″ Tarkoff said.
Peter Farrell, 37, a Naples developer, recruited O’Brien to pick up the ransom money, without O’Brien realizing what he was going to do, Tarkoff claimed. The third defendant is Paul Farrell, 22, a Navy petty officer and Peter Farrell’s brother.
Amanda identified O’Brien as the man who picked her up at school and Paul Farrell as one of her captors.
The last witness of the day, Collier County sheriff’s Cpl. Robert Quinn, identified Paul Farrell as the man he picked up near the wooded site where Amanda was hidden. Quinn said he drove Farrell to a gasoline station hours before the girl was found.
Quinn said Farrell hailed him on a highway ″maybe 100 yards one way or another from the dirt road from where I was told the girl was found.″
Farrell, who was carrying a brown overnight bag, told Quinn he wanted to get to a telephone. ″He said, ’My brother would be mad at me,‴ Quinn testified.