A sibling of 25-year-old Nikkia Cooper says her sister is innocent -- and the victim of a kidnapping, too. Cooper was in the car with a man arrested in D.C. accused of killing his parents and kidnapping his 11-year-old niece; she has been charged with drug possession. News 4's Meagan Fitzgerald reports.(Published Tuesday, April 4, 2017)
A woman who was arrested after riding through several states with a murder suspect and a kidnapped 11-year-old in the car is a victim herself, her sister said Tuesday.
Nikkia Cooper was forced to stay in the car by the man driving, her sister said.
"I honestly pray that my sister can get out of this situation," said her sister, who asked not to be identified.
Cooper faces kidnapping charges in North Carolina and a drug charge in Washington. She was arrested Sunday in D.C. with 36-year-old Curtis Atkinson Jr. of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Police say Atkinson had killed his parents in North Carolina and fled north with his 11-year-old niece and Cooper. In D.C., Atkinson was driving when he fled from police, they said.
The chase ended when Atkinson crashed the car on Maine Avenue, NW, with enough force that the child, two adults and a dog were all thrown to the front seat. The girl was rescued after police heard her cry, "Help me!"
Cooper called 911 to tell police where they were, the sister said.
Cooper had been forced to stay in the car with Atkinson throughout the wild ride north, her sister said. The sister received a phone call from Cooper along the way.
And the sister said she believed Atkinson had suggested a reason for his actions.
"He would hint at it," the sister said. "Like, 'I feel like my dad's doing something to my niece, but I don't know.' But he wouldn't actually say, 'Oh, my dad's molesting my niece.'"
Atkinson has family members in Maryland, and the sister believes he was headed north to deliver his niece to them.
Police have not confirmed the accusations of molestation.
Court documents made available Monday said that an officer who chased the vehicle in Washington was told that the occupants of the vehicle "had a handgun and they were not scared to hurt the kidnapped child in the vehicle.''
Atkinson's first cousin Nina Chandler told The Associated Press that family members don't know why Atkinson would have done any of the things he's accused of.
In a telephone interview, Chandler said that Atkinson and his parents shared an enthusiasm for football and basketball, attending NFL games of the Carolina Panthers and Charlotte's former NBA team, the Hornets.
"They loved their boys. And Curtis Jr. loved his dad,'' said Chandler, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland. "We can't get our hands on it. We don't know what went wrong.''
Both Atkinson Jr. and Cooper appeared in court Monday and are being held in jail. The court documents said authorities intend to extradite Atkinson and Cooper to North Carolina.
Curtis Atkinson Jr. has a criminal record including convictions for drug dealing and possessing stolen goods dating to 1999, according to state prison records. He served 11 months in prison before being released in 2011, those records show.
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