The 36-year-old man charged in the kidnapping of 4-year-old Cleo Smith in Western Australia was an avid Bratz doll collector, frequently posting his favorite toys on Facebook.
Terence Darrell Kelly was charged with forcibly and fraudulently taking a child this week, 18 days after he allegedly snatched Smith from a tent where she was sleeping with her family. He will appear in court on Dec. 5 to give his plea.
Cleo was found in a back room of Kelly’s house at 1 a.m. on Wednesday after police followed up on a tip. She was wide awake and playing with toys, police said, but did not confirm if she was allowed to touch his collection of Bratz dolls.
“The lights were on and she was playing with toys, I think that’s about all I want to say,” Superintendent Rod Wilde told reporters. “This is still a matter that needs to go before the courts. There’s certain aspects about what we saw that is going to be evidence.”
The home where Kelly lived, described as public housing, was a seven-minute drive from where Cleo lived with her mother, her mother’s partner, and an infant sister. Police are working to determine if Kelly had targeted the child and followed them to the campground some 50 miles away the weekend she disappeared. A substantial clue in recovering the child was a tip describing a car like Kelly’s speeding away from the area at 3 a.m. the morning after she disappeared, police say. They have not confirmed that it was in fact Kelly’s car, but have called the information “crucial” to their investigation.
Kelly posted photos of his substantial collection of Bratz dolls, many still in their cases, on Facebook collector sites in Australia. He also posted glam selfies of himself, often flanked by his prized dolls. In April 2020, he posted a photo of one of his dolls in his car, captioning it that he liked to drive “her” around.
“He’s been a feature on Facebook for a long, long time, and on other social media, taking his dolls for drives, doing their hair, and taking selfies,” police told local reporters.
Australian media outlets have quoted many of his neighbors who said he had acted strangely in the weeks since Cleo disappeared, driving his car fast and keeping his dog in the front yard as opposed to the backyard as he normally did.
Kelly was taken to the hospital twice after his initial arrest after apparently self-harming himself in jail.
Police say Cleo, who has since been reunited with her family, is physically fine and has started to try to understand what happened during the 18 days she was allegedly held.
“The investigation into what has happened from now really has started again, because we’ve got Cleo, you know, she is alive and well,” Police Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch told Australian media. “Now we’ve got to make sure we dot the Is and cross the Ts, do everything according to law and thoroughly and make sure we put together a good brief of evidence, if there is one.”