Denise Marie Woodrum, a 51-year-old nun who is a sister of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ religious order, was caught traveling with cocaine stuffed into the heels of a pair of shoes in August 2017, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Monday.
Last week, Rebecca Neil, Woodrum's lawyer, told District Court Judge Penelope Wass that her client was tricked into smuggling the drugs for a man she met online who goes by the name Hendrik Cornelius.
"She was groomed to provide a financial gain for this person, Hendrik Cornelius, whatever person or persons it was behind this identity," Neil said, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
"She went on this trip thinking she was bringing artifacts for him."
According to Neil, Woodrum believed she had met a special someone after enduring a failed marriage and health issues. Although she had exchanged hundreds of texts with Cornelius, Woodrum had never met him in person.
"Can you promise you will never leave me?" Woodrum allegedly texting Cornelius last July. "You are my Only and First True Family!!!"
Last January, Woodrum pleaded guilty to importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, the New York Post reported Monday.
According to Judge Wass, she found Woodrum's claim that she was tricked by an online lover "inconsistent and unbelievable."
"I am less than convinced by her explanation," she said, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Monday.
Prosecutor Ben Dunstan also claims that there is evidence that Woodrum was fully aware she was part of a plot to smuggle cocaine.
According to Dunstan, Woodrum flew from Missouri to Texas and then to Trinidad and Tobago on July 18. The following day, she traveled to Suriname, a small country on the northeastern coast of South America. On July 25, she texted an individual named Stacie, saying, "This whole trip is paid for and will get additional payment for work."
Just a few days later, on July 30, she texted Cornelius, "Riding in his car to get stuff no signature needed." She then texted him an expense list for hotels and flights on August 2 before traveling to Sydney, where she was caught with the cocaine.
When she was told that cocaine had been found in the shoes in her suitcase, Woodrum allegedly replied, "Why, how much did you find?" Dunstan claims that the cryptic text messages and sporadic traveling, as well as the fact that while she was in Sydney, Cornelius kept sending her messages like "Are you ok?," "What are you doing honey?," "Shuttle?" and "In taxi?," indicate that Woodrum knew she was part of a drug smuggling operation.
Ever since Woodrum was arrested last August, she has been in custody. She will be sentenced next month.
Woodrum's dad, Tom Rozanski, told the Herald that his daughter's arrest was "a big shock to the whole family."
"It just came out of the blue," Rozanski said, also adding that his daughter was a former teacher with a master's degree in marketing who had undergone a hysterectomy and struggled with depression.
"All of a sudden she met someone she talked to," he said. "She said she was going to be doing some traveling."
"Life took a turn. She has never done anything like this before, and this experience has been difficult for me to understand. Mostly because none of our family has had anything happen to them that even remotely resembles what Denise has done," he continued.
"I'm just hoping the best for her; that's all I can tell you."