Tuesday 26 September 2017

Woman reunited with birth family after being snatched from hospital 18 years ago

Jacksonville sheriff Mike Williams announces Kamiyah Mobley has been found alive and well (Bob Mack/The Florida Times-Union via AP)
Jacksonville sheriff Mike Williams announces Kamiyah Mobley has been found alive and well (Bob Mack/The Florida Times-Union via AP)

An 18-year-old woman taken from a US hospital hours after she was born has learned her true identity and been reunited with her birth family.

Kamiyah Mobley spoke to her birth family via video chat after DNA analysis confirmed her identity.

The woman she thought was her mother has been charged with kidnapping.

Police arrested Gloria Williams, 51, in Walterboro, South Carolina, where Ms Mobley was raised in a small house, about 200 miles from the hospital where she was born.

She will be extradited to Florida on charges of kidnapping and interference with custody, authorities said.

Ms Mobley is in good health but understandably overwhelmed, Jacksonville sheriff Mike Williams said.

Her birth family cried "tears of joy" after a detective told them the missing baby had been found. Within hours, the Jacksonville family were able to talk to her by video chat.

"She looks just like her daddy," her paternal grandmother, Velma Aiken said. They were able to see each other for the first time using FaceTime.

"She act like she been talking to us all the time. She told us she'd be here soon to see us."

Ms Mobley was only eight hours old when she was taken from her young mother by a woman posing as a nurse at University Medical Centre.

A massive search took place, with helicopters circling the hospital and the city on high alert. Thousands of tips came in over the years, but she had disappeared.

All that time, Ms Mobley's neighbours in Walterboro knew her as Ms Williams' daughter, Alexis Manigo.

"She wasn't an abused child or a child who got in trouble. But she grew up with a lie for 18 years," said Joseph Jenkins, who lives across the road.

The young woman "had an inclination" some months ago that she may have been kidnapped, sheriff Mr Williams said.

Authorities did not say why she suspected, or how her case came to the attention of the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

It contacted the cold case detectives at the sheriff's office and Ms Mobley provided a swab for DNA analysis that proved the match, the sheriff said.

The centre has tracked 308 infant abductions since 1983 by non-family members in the US. Of those cases, 12 were still missing at the end of last month.

"She's taking it as well as you can imagine. She has a lot to process," Mr Williams said. "I can't even begin to comprehend it."

The woman has been given counselling, he said.

Meanwhile, Ms Aiken said she was thrilled to know they can speak to each other as much as they want.

"I always prayed, 'Don't let me die before I see my grand baby'," she said. "My prayer was answered."

The family never forgot the girl ripped from her mother's arms that day in 1988.

Her mother, Shanara Mobley, told the Florida Times-Union newspaper on the 10th anniversary of the kidnapping that on every one of her daughter's birthdays, she wrapped a piece of cake in foil and froze it.

"It's stressful to wake up every day, knowing that your child is out there and you have no way to reach her or talk to her," she told the paper in 2008.

News moved quickly through the community of about 5,100 people on Friday after police cars swarmed around Ms Williams' home.

Mr Jenkins said he awoke to see officers searching the house and a shed behind it.

"At the fish market, the hair dresser, the gas station, they're all talking about it," said Ruben Boatwright, who said he has known Ms Williams for about 15 years.

Lakeshia Jenkins, Mr Joseph's wife, said Ms Williams and the girl would often come over for cookouts in the yard, or join their family at a nearby water park.

Ms Mobley seemed to be well cared for and "Ms Williams, she seemed like a normal person", Ms Jenkins said.

"She went to work, came back here and went to church every Sunday," she said.

Ms Williams also worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs' hospital in Charleston, volunteered in the area for Habitat for Humanity and lead the youth programme at a Methodist church, she said.

"She's very intelligent, smart as a whip," Mr Boatwright said. "All I can say are good things about her."

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