This article was originally published on by Madeleine O’Neill on September 24, 2018

An Erie County judge described a Waterford Township woman as a “manipulative con artist” Monday before sentencing her to state prison for driving a 14-year-old runaway to Florida and concealing the girl’s whereabouts in February.

The defendant, Joanna J. Kelley, 32, also admitted she sent the girl letters from prison encouraging her to make false allegations in an effort to have Kelley’s charges dropped.

Judge John Garhart sentenced Kelley to three and a half to 10 years in prison and seven years of probation. The sentence was in the high end of the standard range of state sentencing guidelines.

“She is predatory and she’s manipulative and she’s dangerous,” Garhart said. “People like this are predators lurking among us.”

Kelley said little as Garhart questioned her about the case. She offered a brief apology.

“I’d like to apologize to the family,” she said.

Pennsylvania State Police accused Kelley of driving the girl, who had run away from her home in Union City, and the girl’s 16-year-old boyfriend to Florida in late February.

Investigators said Kelley put the girl and her boyfriend on a bus after they reached Florida and Kelley learned she was a suspect in the case. The pair were found in Kentucky, and Kelley was taken into custody in Florida.

After Kelley was incarcerated at the Erie County Prison, state police also accused her of writing letters to the girl and asking her to “blackmail” her father into dropping the charges against Kelley by falsely accusing him of touching the girl inappropriately, according to the criminal complaint.

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