Sheriff James Moore in Kemper County, Miss., told WTOK-TV that Devonta Pollard, a forward on the University of Alabama men's basketball team, and Joyce Johnigan were arrested Tuesday on a charge of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Shaquayla Johnigan was arrested in Hattiesburg on the same charge, Moore said.
The child was taken from East Kemper Elementary School about noon April 30. The next day, she turned up, unharmed, on a rural road in Enterprise, Miss., south of Meridian. She apparently was put out of a vehicle there and then knocked on the door of a nearby residence. The homeowner called authorities.
With Tuesday's arrests, six people have been booked in the case, including Pollard's mother, Jesse Mae Pollard, who authorities claim devised the scheme because of an ongoing land dispute with the child's mother, who is reportedly related to her.
According to a criminal affidavit filed in the case, Wanda Faye Dancy, 51, who worked at the school in Scooba, allegedly told Jesse Mae Pollard, 54, where the child was in the school and what she was wearing. Shamarius Ruffin, 25, allegedly was directed to go to the library to get the girl, and to tell them that Dancy "said it was all right."
Authorities said they traced a cellphone used to contact the child's mother to Pollard.
According to the affidavit, Dancy told agents that Pollard had told her she wanted to take the child for "leverage" in order to get some land back. Dancy alleges that after Pollard picked up the child, she told Dancy to erase all the numbers from her telephone and not to tell anybody.
Federal prosecutors say Ruffin and Pollard drove into Alabama with the girl. At some point, Ruffin demanded to be let out of the vehicle and contacted an acquaintance to pick her up. Another woman later joined the group and stayed with the child in a hotel room in Bessemer, Ala., the criminal affidavit states. The receipt, a hotel key and the receipt for the cellphone were found by agents during a search of Pollard's son's vehicle. The vehicle matched the description of one Pollard was seen driving on security tapes.
Jesse Mae Pollard is being held in federal custody without bond on a charge of kidnapping. Dancy and Ruffin face the same charge.
It was not immediately known if any of the suspects had attorneys.
The Tuscaloosa News reported Devonta Pollard had not been working out with Alabama's basketball team in the offseason and was reportedly contemplating a transfer to East Mississippi Community College near his home in Scooba. He finished his sophomore season in 2013, starting eight games for the Crimson Tide averaging 3.9 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant was not immediately available for comment.
The penalty for kidnapping is a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison.
Moore said he expects at least one more arrest to be made.