The woman who raised Carlina White, who was abducted from a New York City hospital 23 years ago, will face kidnapping charges, a federal prosecutor said today, hours after the woman turned herself in to police.
Ann Pettway, who had dropped from sight after federal and New York law enforcement officials launched fresh probes into the girl's disappearance from a hospital in 1987, surrendered in Bridgeport, Conn., where her mother lives, according to officials.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Pettway is expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan Monday to face kidnapping charges.
Pettway, the woman White called Mom while growing up, has several aliases as well as a criminal history that includes charges of embezzlement, forgery, theft and drugs. She is on parole for embezzlement charges in North Carolina, where she lives, the New York Post reported.
Authorities have not called Pettway a suspect, and the woman has defended herself saying that she was a good mom.
"I just hope that the officials be able to get her in their hands, so we can just hear her side of the story now," White told the New York Post.
White has since been reunited with her biological parents, Joy White and Carl Tyson, and has described a childhood of abuse, telling the New York Post that the woman hit her and threw things like shoes at her.
When she was just 19 days old, Carlina White was abducted from Harlem Hospital on Aug. 4, 1987. Her worried parents, Joy White and Carl Tyson, had taken their feverish baby to the hospital.
"Way I feel when I lost my daughter, oh my God, that was like a big part of my heart just was ripped apart," Carl Tyson told the Post.
The family claims a woman disguised as a nurse took Carlina White.
"For a person to put on a nurse suit, to wander in the hospital," Carlina White told the New York Post. "You knew what you were doing."
The woman had reportedly just lost her own baby.
Brad Garrett, a former FBI profiler and special agent, said that there is a difference between somebody who steals a baby and somebody who abducts a child.
"If you look at the profile of infant abductors, they tend to be women in their late twenties or early thirties. They can't have a child or they lost a child. They may have even faked pregnancies," Garrett said.
"A child abductor is somebody that just wants a narcissistic, erotic gain from stealing a child, using a child and disposing of a child," he said. "They don't want a relationship with the child."
Carlina White was taken to Bridgeport, Conn., and, later, Atlanta, where she was given a new name, Nejdra Nance, and was raised by a new family, unaware for 23 years that her biological family was actually in New York City.
Back in New York, a $10,000 reward was offered for the safe return of the baby girl, but years passed without her return. The parents never gave up hope. They took the money won in a lawsuit from the city and established a trust fund for their daughter in the event of her return.
The kidnapping of Carlina White raises questions about how someone raising a child who wasn't their own could go undetected for so long. Even Pettway's brother said he had no idea White wasn't her real daughter.
"Why should I think twice about it? She just was a baby, just a baby," Kapell Pettway said.
Experts on missing children said that kidnapped children and their abductors often blend easily into society.