The 16-month-old girl abducted Christmas Eve at a Chicago bus station was reunited with her thankful and joyous mother today.
Marcella Anderson was reunited today in private with her daughter Jasmine in West Virginia after last seeing her being taken away by her kidnapper at a crowded bus station on Monday.
After their reunion, mother and daughter flew back to Chicago, where a grateful and relieved Anderson again thanked law enforcement and the media for their help in retrieving Jasmine.
"I'm just overwhelmed with joy that I got my baby back," Anderson said, clutching and kissing Jasmine. "She [Jasmine] was sleeping when I got there [to West Virginia]. She's heaven-sent."
On Thursday, authorities found Jasmine unharmed at a residence in Williamson, W. Va. Her alleged kidnapper, identified as Sheila Matthews, had told her boyfriend she had a baby while he was in prison. When he was released, she told him her mother was caring for the baby in Chicago. Matthews, authorities said, was looking for a baby to abduct when she encountered Anderson and Jasmine on Monday.
Suspect’s Previous Kidnapping History
Authorities were tipped off when a relative of Matthews' boyfriend recognized Jasmine from photos shown in newscasts nationwide. Matthews is in custody in Williamson, charged with one count of federal kidnapping. She appeared in court this morning, where it was revealed that she had a history of kidnapping. In 1988, Matthews pleaded guilty to kidnapping in Washington State for abducting a 2½-year-old girl from her parents and was sentenced to 5½ months in jail.
Anderson said she hoped Matthews gets jail time for taking Jasmine.
"I hope she learns something from this and serves a long time, longer than she did the first time," Anderson said.
Anderson said Matthews identified herself only as "Christina" when she walked off with her daughter.
Anderson, 21, said she was traveling alone with Jasmine and her other young daughter, Alicia, 3, as she was waiting for a bus ride home to Milwaukee. Her two girls, she said, were tired and irritable after a plane trip from St. Louis, where they had visited their aunt, and she needed help handling them.
That is when "Christina" came up to her and offered help. Anderson said the woman offered to give her and the children a ride to Milwaukee because she claimed she was heading in that direction. Matthews, Anderson said, suggested she would hold Jasmine while she got on line to cash in her bus tickets. But when Anderson turned around she saw her walk away with Jasmine. Anderson called out to Matthews and a man who had helped the young mother with her luggage tried to chase her down, but they were gone, she said.
Delayed Holiday Celebration
Anderson said she was not sure when she and Jasmine would return to their home in Milwaukee, but was looking forward to time alone with her and her family and a belated Christmas celebration.
"It's the most wonderful feeling in the world," Anderson said. "She was asleep when I first saw her [upon their reunion in West Virginia] I was the first person she saw when she woke up and I'll be the last person she sees when she goes to sleep, too."