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Ohio woman charged in murder plot

By Times staff and wire reports

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001

TAMPA -- An Ohio woman who once faked her way into Yale University now is accused of plotting to kill a woman and steal her identity.

Tonica Jenkins, 25, and her cousin, Kyle Martin, grabbed a woman off the street in East Cleveland, Ohio, drugged her and had dental records made so it appeared the woman was Jenkins, according to police.

The motive was to help Jenkins avoid a federal drug trial in Tampa, police said.

"At first, it was kind of hard to believe," East Cleveland police Chief Patricia Lane said. "Then the facts started meshing together."

Police have charged Jenkins and Martin, 31, of Springfield, Ohio, with attempted murder. Jenkins is being held without bail in Tampa, where she and her mother were found guilty Friday in the federal drug trial she was trying to avoid.

Police said the murder plot came apart April 21 when the abducted woman, who had been hit on the head with a brick, escaped from Jenkins' East Cleveland home.

Martin, who is being held in lieu of $1-million bail in an East Cleveland jail, admitted to the attack, Lane said.

The 25-year-old assault victim remains under medical care and needed at least 25 staples to close wounds in the back of her head and six stitches on her forehead.

Police said Jenkins and Martin had picked the woman because she resembled Jenkins. For two days they kept her under the influence of crack cocaine and marijuana. They also injected the woman with insulin to lower her blood sugar to a dangerous level, Lane said.

The pair took the woman to the dentist under Jenkins' name, creating records that were to be used to identify the body after it was burned and dumped at an abandoned building, Lane said.

Jenkins and her mother, Tonica Clement Jenkins, were convicted April 27 of buying 22 pounds of cocaine from an undercover federal drug agent. The women each face at least 10 years in prison when they are sentenced in about two months.

Last year, Jenkins was sentenced to two years of probation after pleading guilty to larceny and forgery charges for making up recommendations and transcripts to get into a graduate neurobiology program at Yale. She was ordered to repay $16,000 in scholarships.

Prosecutors said Jenkins got into Yale by creating transcripts with good grades and glowing letters of recommendation from Cuyahoga Community College and Central State University, both in Ohio.

The forgeries were discovered in December 1997 after Jenkins failed to take exams for her courses, feigning illness.

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