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Father on trial in child-in-trunk case

BRADENTON — They didn’t want their teenage daughter to run away.

So David and Peggy Ingram bound the child’s head, hands and feet with duct tape, put a wool cap over her head and threw her in the trunk of their car, according to lawyers in David Ingram’s child abuse trial this week,

As they drove away from 27th Street East on Sept. 12, the couple turned up the radio to drown out their 17-year-old daughter’s apologies and prayers to Jesus.

Somehow, the high school senior broke free from the bindings, opened the trunk using a glow-in-the dark release hatch and jumped from the moving car.

The fall caused a serious head injury, Assistant State Attorney Lauren Berns told jurors Tuesday during the first day of Ingram’s aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment trial.

Earlier this week, Peggy Ingram pleaded no contest to a false imprisonment charge and was sentenced to 18 months of probation. Under a plea deal with prosecutors, she agreed to testify against her husband.

During opening statements in David Ingram’s trial, defense attorneys called Ingram’s actions a desperate act to save a child who’s life had been “on the wrong track.”

“This was a scare tactic that went stupidly wrong, a desperate act to get her not to run away,” said lawyer Betsy Young, who represents Ingram with Varinia Van Ness.

It was the teen’s choice to jump from the car, Young said.

Her client, she said, may be guilty of bad judgment, but is not guilty of aggravated child abuse.

Prior to Sept. 12, the teen had been acting out, Young said. Her parents learned she’d become sexually active and had gotten pregnant by an older man, known only as Eddie. Lawyers did not say how old he was.

After the teen had an abortion, her parents forbade her to see Eddie.

“We just couldn’t understand this behavior . .  . sneaking around with someone we’d never met,” Peggy Ingram said on the witness stand.

Peggy Ingram testified Tuesday that the couple left their daughter with a relative so she and her husband could attend a Christian marriage retreat in Tampa.

While there, she told jurors a neighbor called her husband and said they saw her daughter with an unidentified man. The teen’s brother also reportedly saw the girl get into a car with the man.

Berns said testimony this week will reveal that the couple drove home to Manatee and picked up duct tape, then drove to the home where their daughter was staying in the 300 block of 10th Avenue East.

As they were driving home, the girl told her parents she was going to run away, so they pulled over in the Mixon Fruit Farms area. Peggy Ingram bound her hands and legs with the duct tape as her husband held her down. They then placed a wool cap over her head, closed the trunk and drove off, Berns said in his opening statement.

At a stoplight, David Ingram noticed that the trunk lid was open and that their daughter was missing.

They turned around to retrace their route, finding the dazed teen standing on the side of the road.

They put her in the back seat, then drove her home, where they noticed blood from a head wound on her shirt. They took her to Manatee Memorial Hospital, where doctors determined she had suffered a skull fracture. She was transferred to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Testimony is expected to resume at 9 a.m. today in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Diana Moreland.

If convicted of aggravated child abuse and false imprisonment, David Ingram could be sentenced to up to 35 years in prison.