Australian man Terence Kelly pled guilty to the October 2021 kidnapping of 4-year-old Cleo Smith. During a court appearance on Monday, Kelly admitted to stealing the young girl when her family was camping at a Quobba Blowholes camping ground on Oct. 16.

The 36-year-old appeared in court via video call on Monday. He is being held in a maximum-security Perth prison. If convicted, Terence Kelly could face up to 20 years in prison for the kidnapping. He has not entered a plea for the other charges that he faces, including assaulting a police officer. His court date for those charges is scheduled for later in the year.

The court case will now move to the District Court of Western Australia. A hearing is scheduled for March 25, it is unclear when a sentencing hearing will take place. Australian police have not released a lot of information about the kidnapping case, but more details are expected to be shared during the trial.

Terence Kelly Cleo Smith
Terence Kelly admitted to kidnapping 4-year-old Cleo Smith back in Oct. 2021. The 36-year-old is set to stand trial. (Credit: WA Police).

The abduction of Cleo Smith took place on Oct. 16 and captivated the citizens of Australia. For 18 days, over 100 police officers investigated the little girl’s disappearance. According to early reports, the 4-year-old disappeared from her family’s tent between 1:30 and 6:00 a.m. She was sleeping on a blow-up mattress next to her sister and when their mother woke up in the morning, Cleo was gone, and the front of the tent was open.

“We are continuing to throw everything we have at this, and we will continue until we can provide some answers as to what has happened to Cleo,” Inspector Jon Munday told reporters after four days of looking for Cleo Smith. “Certainly, we are not ruling [abduction] out. We are not going to get blinkered or assume that something has happened. Everything is on the table until we can rule it out.”

Police were able to link Terence Kelly to the crime through cellphone data and a tip from the public. Officers were given a tip about a car seen near the Smith’s camp site. They then were able to link a cellphone that pinged off a tower near the campers to Terence Kelly and his home.

The 4-year-old girl was later found in a house in Carnarvon, less than 10 minutes from her own home. Police busted down the door and found Cleo Smith in one of the bedrooms, alone and playing with toys. The little girl was unharmed and was reunited with her family. Terence Kelly, Cleo’s abductor, was arrested by police down the street.

At the time of the rescue, a motive for the kidnapping was unclear. Cleo Smith’s family said that Terence Kelly was a stranger to them. After Cleo was returned, her parents posted a statement on their Instagram and said, “Our family is whole again.”

Very little is known about the 36-year-old kidnapper. Terence Kelly was reportedly obsessed with Bratz Dolls and would drive around with them. A neighbor of the 36-year-old said that he once saw Kelly with numerous Bratz Dolls in his back seat about a week before Cleo was discovered.

He would post pictures of his doll collection on Facebook and Instagram and reportedly wrote, “I love taking my dolls for drive arounds and doing their hair and taking selfies in public.”

Terence Kelly Cleo Smith
The 36-year-old reportedly had an obsession with Bratz Dolls and posted a lot about his strange collection on Facebook. (Credit: Facebook)

It is unclear why Terence Kelly kidnapped the 4-year-old girl and what he planned on doing. Many questions still remain, and investigators hope they will be answered during the trial.