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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Woman jailed for 1987 cradle-snatch

Published 31/07/2012 | 03:21

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Ann Pettway, of Raleigh, North Carolina, kidnapped an infant because she wanted a baby

A woman who snatched a three-week-old baby from a hospital more than two decades ago and raised the child as her own has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

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Ann Pettway, 50, pleaded guilty to kidnapping in February and offered details of the 1987 kidnapping. She said she took a train from her Connecticut home to Harlem Hospital, where she scooped up Carlina White, who had been brought to accident and emergency with a high fever.

The judge handed down the 12-year sentence in US district court in Manhattan.

Prosecutors said it appeared that Pettway, of Raleigh, North Carolina, kidnapped the ailing infant because she wanted a baby "and constructed a web of lies that denied the child the truth about her family for 23 years".

They said Pettway "brazenly took the daughter from a hospital crib and, when no one stopped her, brought the daughter home with her to Connecticut. If the offence had ended there, in 1987, a lengthy sentence of imprisonment would have been warranted for kidnapping alone. But the offence did not end there. Instead it continued for 23 years".

The US government challenged her lawyers' contention that she provided a "stable, loving and happy home", saying that Pettway was convicted of five crimes while Carlina was in her custody and told the probation department that she used cocaine from 1983 until 2005 and smoked marijuana every day until she was in her early 30s. It also said Carlina's biological mother informed the probation department that her daughter said that Pettway once hit her with a shoe so hard that it left an imprint on her face.

As Pettway admitted her guilt, Carlina's birth mother Joy White quietly cried in the court's gallery.

Afterwards, she said she felt a decade in prison would be too light a punishment for the woman who had robbed her so cruelly. Justice, she said, would be one year for every year she was separated from Carlina. "I've lost 23 years of being with my daughter," she said, adding that those decades were filled with pain and heartache.

The kidnapping case was solved by Carlina herself. As she grew up in Connecticut under the name Nejdra Nance, the girl became increasingly suspicious of her own identity. Pettway ultimately told her a part-truth. She admitted that she was someone else's daughter but claimed she had been willingly given away by a drug addict.

Carlina White said she browsed the website of the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children for clues to her identity. After matching a photo of herself with one on the site, she tracked down her true mother and they were reunited in January last year. A DNA test confirmed they were mother and child.

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