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Trial opens in case of first-grader taken off North Las Vegas street

Parents were horrified in September when news spread that a 6-year-old boy was kidnapped near Mackey Elementary School while he was walking home.

The kidnapping, however, turned out to be an alleged stunt, one of the oddest cases in Clark County.

Police accused two mothers, Laurinda Drake and Elaine Clermont, of snatching the first-grader off the street to make a point about lax safety at the school.

The pair, who both had children attending Mackey, are accused of kidnapping the boy and holding him for about two hours before dropping him off at the Clark County School District headquarters. They called various media outlets along the way.

On Tuesday, Drake’s trial opened in District Court. The 41-year-old faces felony charges of first-degree kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and a gross misdemeanor charge of luring a child.

Clermont will be tried separately in June.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Roy Nelson told the jury that three of Drake’s sons had graduated from Mackey. Her youngest son was a student at the school at the time of the incident. Drake was described as a helpful, unassuming parent who volunteered for school-related activities, Nelson said.

But on Sept. 8, Drake picked up the 6-year-old as he was walking home about 9:30 a.m. from Mackey, near Commerce Street and Carey Avenue in North Las Vegas. The boy was walking home because he felt ill but didn’t inform school staff that he was leaving.

After picking up the child in her vehicle, Drake drove to Clermont’s house, which they had shared for about a week. Once there, the two called Mackey school officials and told them they had the child but weren’t returning him, Nelson said.

They turned him over to the School District headquarters later that morning.

Deputy Public Defender Julie Raye told jurors that Drake wasn’t a criminal but a parent who was concerned for the 6-year-old’s safety.

She said Drake saw the boy walking along a desert road near the school and was worried about him because he was alone and unsupervised. She took him to Clermont’s house because he didn’t tell them he was a student at Mackey.

Drake and Clermont called school staff about four times to tell them they had the boy with them. The pair didn’t return the boy to the school because they were concerned about safety issues there, Raye said.

She said Clermont was the one who alerted the media and Drake had no idea news stations were informed of the incident.

Ultimately, Drake called the police’s non-emergency number to report that she had the child and was returning him to school officials. Police arrested her when she dropped him off at School District headquarters.

But Raye maintained that Drake believed she was doing a good deed by taking the child.

“Laurinda Drake is no kidnapper,” she said.

After North Las Vegas police arrested Drake, she was placed on suicide watch.

Clermont, 41, was well-known to the Clark County School Board and often complained about Mackey.

Her attorney, Mace Yampolsky, said Clermont wasn’t involved with picking up the 6-year-old and was only involved when Drake brought him to her house.

“I really believe it’s a completely different situation,” he said.

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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