Texas woman gives migrant mom and son a ride before allegedly abducting toddler son and seeking ransom

Texas woman gives migrant mom and son a ride before allegedly abducting toddler son and seeking ransom
Jenna Leigh Roark is accused of taking hostages and assisting in the kidnapping of the toddler (El Paso Sheriff’s Office)

EL PASO, TEXAS: A Texas woman was arrested for allegedly kidnapping a Honduran migrant's 18-month-old son after offering her a ride earlier this year to a local bus station in El Paso. After snatching the woman's son, Jenna Leigh Roark, 45, and held him for ransom for five months, according to a federal criminal complaint that was unsealed on Monday, October 3.

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Roark is accused of kidnapping the unnamed boy in May and holding him hostage until police accidentally found him in mid-September. She is also accused of aiding and abetting in the plot. Police were told a different version of events by Roark, who said that her husband had gotten into difficulty with the Mexican mafia and that her child hostage had been obtained through a shady middleman she only knew as "Richard." 

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On September 16, when Roark was stopped by the Texas Highway Patrol, the unusual situation was first brought to their attention. The Highway Patrol troopers found a 15-year-old daughter of Roark, who is unidentified in court documents, was sitting in the passenger seat and was carrying an 18-month-old baby. Roark claims that the baby's name is Aiden Smith and that he was born on May 19, 2021. She stated that the boy's birth certificate was at her house and that her other daughter was the boy's biological mother.

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The troopers called Roark's other daughter, who is also unnamed in court documents, to the scene. The other daughter, who had travelled from Albuquerque, informed them that the infant was born on May 19, 2020, and his name was Aiden Javael Smith. She claimed that although she was engaged to the boy's biological mother, the child wasn't actually hers.

"Due to conflicting stories and not being able to identify the child, Child Protective Services was called to take possession of the child [who] has been in their custody since that date," the complaint states. According to a DPS news release from last week, the young boy was in "poor health" and was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

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The complaint states that there were three undocumented passengers in the backseat of Roark's car. Roark was arrested on state charges of human smuggling when it was claimed that she picked up the trio at a nearby Motel 6. The FBI was called on September 26 by investigators with the St Petersburg, Florida Police Department.

Agents were informed that a resident of Honduras had been "separated from her infant son" and was "being extorted for money in exchange for [his] safe return." The unnamed woman informed officers that the incident transpired in May. She claimed to have crossed the border Mexican border with her infant, and she eventually asked a man and a woman at an apartment complex in El Paso for directions to the Greyhound station.

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The Honduran immigrant mentions that the woman—Roark—called herself "Jane" and that "the unknown male and female offered her a ride." However, the woman informed authorities that while they were travelling, "Jane" had asserted they would keep the child. "Jane" got her phone number and promised to contact her. The complaint claims that "Jane" initially demanded $8,000 but eventually lowered her demand to $5,800.

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Police in St Petersburg provided the FBI with "Jane's" mobile phone number, which they used to track the device to downtown El Paso and associate it with a "Jenna L. Roark" in a database. Inquiring further about Roark from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the FBI discovered that she had been arrested the week prior and that "a child was taken into CPS custody," according to the complaint. The infant's mother acknowledged that the boy was definitely hers after FBI investigators showed her images of him.

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