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MISSOURI: Denise Marie Woodrum, a nun who traveled to Australia last August to visit a man she met online was caught smuggling cocaine inside the heels of her shoes, officials said.
Denise Marie Woodrum, 51, was busted while going through customs at the Sydney Airport on Aug. 4 last year. She was stopped by officers who discovered two pounds of cocaine in her luggage, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Monday.
Marie, who was a sister with a Kansas-based Catholic order called the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, claims she was duped by a man named Hendrick Cornelius and that the items in her luggage were meant for him.
“She was groomed to provide financial gain for this person, Hendrick Cornelius, whatever person or persons it was behind this identity,” her lawyer Rebecca Neil said in court last week, the newspaper reported. “She went on this trip, she was bringing artifacts for him.”
According to Marie, she had crippling debt due to major health problems and a failed marriage. She thought the man she met online was someone special. Nuns in her order take a vow of chastity, according to the Adorers website.
However, despite exchanging hundreds of text with this mystery man, Woodrum never met him face to face. Her lawyer claims the 51-year-old was a “vulnerable” woman who had been preyed on.
In January, Marie pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug. However, Judge Penelope Wass has questioned Marie’s explanation, saying it’s “inconsistent and at times unbelievable.”
According to court documents, Woodrum flew from Missouri to Texas and then to Trinidad and Tobago on July 18, 2017. From there she traveled to the Suriname capital city of Paramaribo.
Stopped at the Sydney airport, Woodrum reportedly told officers she traveled to the Australian city to see the Harbour Bridge and the aquarium. She said the shoes in her suitcase were a gift for her mother.
A substance was reportedly detected inside the heel of a shoe, a wallet, and buttons on clothing.
After the shoes tested positive for cocaine, Woodrum reportedly replied: “Why, how much did you find?”
She later told investigators she’d been given gifts and clothes in South America to give to people in Sydney.
All the while, Cornelius was reportedly sending her messages that read: “Are you OK?” “What are you doing honey?” “Shuttle?” “In a taxi?”
Woodrum has remained in custody since her arrest and is due to be sentenced early next month.