WEST JORDAN, Utah » A Utah man pleaded guilty Monday to trying to kidnap a young girl from her bedroom in an attempt that was thwarted by her father.
Troy Morley, 48, entered his plea to one count of child kidnapping in an agreement with prosecutors that dismissed three other charges — burglary, criminal trespassing and interference with an arresting officer.
Aaron Edson, the father of the girl, said it’s still painful to think about the day she was taken but a relief to see Morley plead guilty.
"We’re hoping this will help us move on," Edson said.
Morley appeared calm when he entered his plea in a courtroom near Salt Lake City, answering a judge’s questions in a level voice. He wore a yellow jail jumpsuit, his hands shackled behind his back and his thinning hair cut short.
His lawyer, Roger Kraft, said Morley didn’t intend to hurt the 5-year-old girl. Though he declined to specify why Morley took her, he said his client was high on drugs at the time. Police say Morley rambled about the FBI and voices coming from a radio after his arrest.
Morley led a quiet life before the kidnapping attempt, Kraft said. The plea will reduce his mandatory minimum prison sentence.
"He’s going to have a chance to come out of prison at some point and have some kind of a life," he said.
Morley faces at least six years and up to life in prison at a sentencing hearing scheduled for October.
Morley’s father, Gary Stokes, insisted that his son wasn’t guilty because someone slipped him drugs and he didn’t know what he was doing early on the morning of Nov. 7, 2014.
Morley had stopped at a hotel in the suburb of Sandy on his way back from Nevada because he was tired, but he left the hotel and started walking around the neighborhood where the girl lives with her parents.
He told police he entered the house through an unlocked door, convinced the girl to come with him and tried to walk out of the house with her in his arms.
The sound woke her parents, who were especially concerned when they heard her voice because their daughter has cerebral palsy and physical limitations that make it difficult for her to walk out of her room alone.
Edson followed Morley outside and calmly asked him to give the girl back.
Morley handed her over and left, saying he needed to go to a church and for Edson to call the FBI if anything happened to him. He was arrested a few blocks away, police said.
The girl’s parents, who say they didn’t leave their door ajar that night, say she has been doing as well as could be expected since the kidnap attempt.
"As a mother, you want to protect your child, and you want to make sure she has the best outcome," said Stephanie Edson. "We’re glad that this is moving forward towards closure."