Carl Ray Kennedy pleaded guilty in Danville Circuit Court on Wednesday morning to several charges related to the abduction of his then 7-month-old daughter, Emma Grace Kennedy, in June 2018.

The 52-year-old man now faces as much as 36 years in prison for six charges, including parental kidnapping, child neglect and grand larceny from a person.

The guilty plea came in exchange for the Danville Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office not charging him for contacting his estranged girlfriend Kristen Winnes — mother of the kidnapped girl — in violation of a protective order, on more than one occasion while in jail.

“We agreed he would plead guilty and we would not charge him with those,” Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Petra Haskins told the Danville Register & Bee.

One charge includes possession of a shank by an inmate, after a self-made knife was found in a jail day room and was linked to Kennedy, who had told another inmate that he planned to use it to stab Winnes, Haskins said. It was not stated in court how he planned to reach Winnes from jail.

The grand larceny charge was a result of Kennedy taking Winnes’ cellphone from her. Though the mother’s name is Winnes, she has stated her preference to go by her maiden name of Murphy

The June 3 kidnapping of the girl from a Danville gas station, where Kennedy was meeting with Winnes early that morning, made national headlines.

It led to a two-day search for Emma, who was ultimately found in Kennedy’s mobile home in Randleman, North Carolina — 66 miles south of Danville — where he was arrested without incident.

In court Wednesday morning, Kennedy took his time answering questions from Judge Joseph Milam Jr. related to his guilty plea.

“Yes,” he muttered in response to most of Milam’s questions.

Haskins presented audio of a 911 call made during the abduction and a video of the kidnapping in the parking lot of the Kwik Shop convenience store at 4912 Riverside Drive.

The caller told the dispatcher that a lady was being beaten by a man in the parking lot.

“That guy left with the baby,” the caller said.

Video showed Kenney’s vehicle next to Winnes’, partially blocking her car so she could not back straight out of her space.

Kennedy gets into her car at the passenger’s side before he runs around to the driver’s side. There appears to be a struggle for several minutes before he grabs Emma out of the car and takes her to his vehicle.

Winnes tries to take her child back as Kennedy pulls off in his car. He held the child in his lap and there was no child safety seat, Haskins told the court.

Kennedy will appear in court again at 9 a.m. Feb. 27 when evidence will be presented to determine his sentence.

Kennedy also faces federal charges. In November, a federal grand jury indicted him on a felony charge of violating a family abuse protective order.

The one-page federal indictment available to the public stated Kennedy traveled over state lines from Virginia to North Carolina with the intent to engage in conduct that would violate a portion of the protective order.

John Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact him at or (434) 791-7987.

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