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 Kidnapped, Given New Name
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.
"Unless there's some clue, some hint, some member of the public that is suspicious, unfortunately these people do blend in," Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said.
While no one suspected anything was wrong, White did.
"Nejdra Nance was very suspicious of who she was and what family raised her," Lt. Christopher Zimmerman of the New York Police Department said. "There was no paperwork to follow her such as a birth certificate or social security card. In her late teens she became suspicious of who she was."
When Carlina White was unable to get a driver's license and saw no biological resemblance to the people she was living with, she grew suspicious.
"She said she just had a feeling, she felt different from the people raising her," Carlina White's maternal grandmother, Elizabeth White, told The Associated Press.
Carlina White began looking at web sites for missing children, including the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children. Searching for her birth year, she spotted a photo of a baby along with a composite of how the child would look at 19.
Carlina White Cracks Her Own Cold Case
The photos looked eerily similar to baby photos of her daughter, Samani.
Carlina White called the center's hotline and said, "I don't know who I am."
The photo connected her to her mother, Joy White.
"I just always believed that she would find me. That was something that I always believed in myself, you know, that she would come and find me and that's the same way that I thought it would happen," Joy White, mother of Carlina White, told the New York Post.
Lisa White said that her sister, Joy White, knew from the photo that Carlina was the baby that was snatched from her so many years ago.
"My sister Joy called me and it made me so happy, she said, 'Lisa, guess what, they may have found Carlina.' I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' She said, 'yes, I'm going to send you these pictures of Carlina.' And I said, 'send them to me,' and she sent them and she said, 'Lisa, that is mini-me. That is me, I know that's my daughter,'" Lisa White said.
Carlina White met with her biological family last weekend.
"It was wonderful, she didn't even seem like a stranger, she just fit right in," Elizabeth White said. "We all went up there, we had dinner together, her aunts were there. She brought her beautiful daughter. It was magic."
After returning to Georgia, Carlina White flew back to New York late Wednesday night.
"I'm just so happy she's back. I said, 'you're going to get so many hugs! You're going to be sick of us.' She said, 'you know what, I never had hugs like that.' I'm just happy she's back. Thank you God, thank you Jesus. I don't want her to ever go back I want her to stay here," Lisa White said.