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September 5, 2013

Grandmother charged in abduction case

PELHAM — Police have charged a Pelham grandmother in connection with the disappearance of a 16-year-old California girl.

Kathleen Willett, 59, was arrested on a fugitive warrant out of Irvine, Calif., alleging felony child abduction, police said.

Police do not suspect foul play.

They said they believe Leandra Clarke, also known as Leandra Ascolillo, is in hiding with other relatives in Massachusetts in the Tewksbury, Billerica or North Reading areas.

Willett is Leandra’s grandmother, police said.

Police are asking for the public’s help in locating Leandra.

She was last seen in California on June 27. Police in California said she has run away from home before and this time left after being disciplined by her mother.

“Leandra was believed to have traveled from California to New Hampshire, staying with Willett in Pelham, as the two are related,” Pelham police said.

Local police have worked for two months on the case with police in Irvine.

“Willett is believed to have transported the juvenile from California to New Hampshire in early July,” police said.

The two were stopped en route by the Nebraska Sheriff’s Department, but released because Leandra’s disappearance had not yet been entered in the National Crime Information Center.

“Willett is not cooperating with police at this time and was not truthful when interviewed by police in early July,” police said.

She was arraigned yesterday in 10th Circuit Court in Salem. Bail was set at $40,000 cash and she is being held at Valley Street jail in Manchester.

She is scheduled for another court date Oct. 3.

Officials are working to return Willett to California.

“Additional arrest warrants are forthcoming on individuals who police believe are harboring and assisting Leandra,” police said.

Leandra is described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, 130 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes.

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