A Palm Springs woman pleaded not guilty Friday to kidnapping and child cruelty charges for the alleged kidnapping of her 4-month-old niece in Cathedral City.
Julia Anne Schoolcraft, 31, was arrested Sept. 18, a day after allegedly stealing her brother’s vehicle with his child still inside, according to Officer Andrew Diaz of the Cathedral City Police Department.
Schoolcraft is charged with one felony count each of kidnapping, willful child cruelty and taking a vehicle without owner consent.
During her arraignment at the Banning Justice Center Friday, Schoolcraft pleaded not guilty to the charges and was ordered to return for a felony settlement conference Oct. 5.
She was being held at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning on $80,000 bail.
The California Highway Patrol issued an Amber Alert on behalf of Cathedral City police at 4:16 a.m. on Sept. 18. Authorities said the child was last seen with Schoolcraft, a parolee-at-large with an extensive criminal history, at approximately 11 p.m. on Sept. 17 near Date Palm Drive and Adelina Road.
“The father of the infant reported his sister stole his vehicle after he parked at a local gas station and entered the store to purchase milk,” Diaz said. “The suspect drove away in the vehicle with the infant in her car seat.”
Banning police officers located the stolen vehicle at 4:54 a.m. and arrested Schoolcraft, he said, adding that the infant was not inside the vehicle.
“Schoolcraft cooperated with officers and led them to where she dropped off the infant — a Motel 6 in Beaumont,” he said. “The infant was located in a motel room with friends of Schoolcraft, unharmed. The infant is now home with her parents.”