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Md. man pleads guilty in girl's abduction, beating

By David Dishneau

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 12 2011 12:05 p.m. MST

CUMBERLAND, Md. — An unemployed Cumberland man pleaded guilty Wednesday to snatching a 6-year-old girl off the street, beating her in the head with rocks and leaving her for dead in a dry creek bed after aborting what he had apparently planned as a sexual assault.

The girl survived and described to police a tattoo on Stephen M. Westfall's arm, the van in which she was carried and a 4-year-old boy — Westfall's girlfriend's grandson — who was also in the vehicle but wasn't harmed during the episode Aug. 5.

"She's good," the girl's mother told reporters when asked after the hearing about her daughter's condition. "She has issues sometimes but she's 6 so I think she'll get through it better than I will."

The Associated Press generally doesn't identify victims of sexual assaults. Although Westfall wasn't charged with a sexual offense, the AP isn't naming the girl or her mother because of the nature of the crime and the victim's age.

Westfall, 45, pleaded guilty in Allegany County Circuit Court to kidnapping and attempted second-degree murder. State's Attorney Michael Twigg said prosecutors will seek 50 years of actual incarceration although Westfall and Assistant Public Defender Michael Stankan can argue for less. No sentencing date was set.

The offenses carry a combined maximum penalty of 60 years. In return for Westfall's guilty plea, prosecutors dropped other charges, including attempted first-degree murder.

Westfall, wearing handcuffs, a waist chain and leg irons, spoke during the hearing only to answer routine questions. He said he has been on the antidepressant Xanax since before his arrest.

Stankan declined to comment after the hearing.

Westfall's criminal history includes a guilty plea to malicious burning in 2002 stemming from a fire at cabinet retailer Hagerstown Kitchens Inc. in neighboring Washington County.

Court records show a string of financial judgments against Westfall in the 1990s, including one for money owed to Addiction Specialist Associates of Hagerstown in 1993.

A 1999 judgment for about $130 owed to Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown ordered the amount taken from Westfall's wages at GESAC Inc., a Boonsboro-based maker of crash-test dummies.

Westfall also is an author of sorts. PublishAmerica, which caters to first-time authors, lists his book, "Midnight Collection: Tales from an Undead World," on its website.

"Crazy you say?" reads the barely comprehensible product description. "A demented mind you may accuse me of being processed with, but at least, is horror and insanity nothing more than a dreaded disease we inherited from the tainted blood of our ancestors' evil desires?"

Westfall also claimed in a 2005 local television interview to have written an inspirational poem, "Don't Quit," for the Famous Poets Society vanity press. The poem was apparently plagiarized. It is attributed to "anonymous" or "unknown" on various websites.

Westfall abducted the 6-year-old girl as she waited outside her house for her mother to take her to a playground, according to an agreed-upon statement of facts. Twigg said after the hearing that Westfall stripped her of her swimsuit and left her naked and bleeding in a rural area north of town.

In a statement to police, "he admitted he panicked," Twigg said in court. "His intention at that point in time was to kill her. He had gone too far and needed to 'get rid of the girl.'"

The injured child walked to a nearby home and told the resident she had just been abducted, Twigg said.

Police identified Westfall based on the girl's description and information provided the same day by the assailant's then-girlfriend, Twigg said. A 12-day manhunt ended when the girlfriend told police Westfall was hiding in a Grantsville church.

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