Fort Bragg Soldier gets 12 years for sex with girl, staged kidnapping

This undated photo provided by the Craven County Sheriff's Office shows James Peele, a Fort Bragg soldier charged with kidnapping a 12-year-old girl who disappeared from her grandmother’s home overnight and authorities say they had been communicating online. The Craven County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, that the girl’s grandmother woke up Sunday morning to discover the girl was gone, but she found a ransom note on the girl’s bed and her window open. (Craven County Sheriff's Office via AP)

NEW BERN — A soldier who was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina has been sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison for taking a 12-year-old across state lines for sex after staging her kidnapping.

According to an April 6 press release from the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Pvt. James Murdock Peele, age 22, was sentenced on Tuesday to 151 months in prison.

Peele was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division Sustainment Brigade. He had pleaded guilty to transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Authorities say the case began in 2018 when a woman in Craven County reported her granddaughter missing. She said she found the window to the girl’s room was open and a ransom note demanding $20,000. Peele admitted to writing the note and staging the kidnapping.

Authorities said they tracked Peele down because he was listed as the girl’s boyfriend on her Facebook page. FBI agents said the girl told them that Peele knew her age, but he told her that age was just a number.

The girl stated during a forensic interview that she and Peele had been in a sexual relationship.

According to the April 6 press release, Peele’s barracks roommate was present when he returned to base with the girl on Oct. 21, 2020. The FBI arrived shortly after and after being arrested,  Peele made a videotaped confession where he admitted to having sexual intercourse with the minor victim.

North State Journal Staff contributed to this report.