Former York College student Shanai Woodard told a Queens jury last week how she used all the courage she could muster to escape an attempted kidnapping two years ago.
In emotional and detailed testimony Oct. 15, the 22−year−old summoned that same spirit to identify the man whom she claimed handcuffed, beat and threw her into his van: Darryl Littlejohn.
Woodard was on the stand for the entire day of hearings and broke down as she recounted what happened when she tried to walk home from school Oct. 19, 2005.
“I thought he was going to kill me,” she said before crying on the stand of Queens Supreme Court Justice Gregory Lasak’s courtroom.
Woodard said she was walking down Liberty Boulevard when she noticed a man dressed in a blue uniform with a gun, a pair of handcuffs and a walkie−talkie clipped to his belt in front of a blue van. The man stopped her, asked for identification and then proceeded to handcuff her behind her back, Woodard testified.
She said she was then thrown into the back seat of the van and was driven off. Woodard told the jury she tried to unlock the door and scream for help, but the man stopped the car and punched her in the head.
“He said he wasn’t going to let me get away,” she recounted.
Woodard did not listen to that threat and a few minutes later successfully opened the door and jumped out onto the street as the van sped off.
But the victim’s story did not end there.
Five months later, Woodard was watching the news when she saw an image of Littlejohn, a bouncer from Jamaica, who was arrested in connection with the murder and rape of Imette St. Guillen, a graduate student at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. St. Guillen was at the SoHo bar where Littlejohn worked before she disappeared.
After calling the police and taking part in two police lineups, Woodard identified Littlejohn as her kidnapper. She did it again before the judge, pointing out Littlejohn with her left hand while holding a tissue to her teary−eyed face with the other.
“He’s sitting right there,” she said as she identified Littlejohn, who rarely looked at Woodard as she testified.
Woodard was not as emotional during her cross−examination by Littlejohn’s attorney, Jason Russo. The lawyer reminded Woodard that her initial description of her alleged kidnapper was a man more than 6 feet tall with had short black hair and a thin mustache.
Russo reminded the victim that Littlejohn is 5 feet 6 inches tall and bald and has no facial hair. Woodard, a self−described 5−foot, 125−pound woman, confirmed that her initial description included the hair and height differences, but she was absolutely positive that Littlejohn was her kidnapper.
“I can’t forget that face,” she said.
Police evidence has supported Woodard’s claims. After they arrested Littlejohn in connection with St. Gullien’s murder, police discovered a blue van that Woodard later identified as the vehicle she was in.
The New York Post reported two detectives took the stand last Thursday and testified that Littlejohn’s fingerprints were all over the van.
If convicted on charges of kidnapping, robbery, assault and criminal impersonation, Littlejohn, awaiting his murder trial in Manhattan, faces up to 25 years in prison, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@t
©2008 Community News Group
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