A 16-month-old girl apparently abducted from a Greyhound bus station in Chicago on Christmas Eve has been found alive and unharmed in West Virginia.
Authorities said Jasmine Anderson was found at a residence in Williamson, W. Va., today. She has been taken to a local hospital, but authorities said she was unharmed.
The alleged kidnapper, identified as Sheila Matthews is in local custody in Williamson. At a news conference tonight, police said they received a tip from a citizen in Broadview, Ill., who said that Matthews tried to pass Jasmine off as her own child and subsequently fled to Williamson. Law enforcement authorities recovered Jasmine this afternoon and arrested Matthews, who has been charged with one count of federal kidnapping.
"We're really grateful to everyone who helped in this case — the media, the police, anyone who helped," Jasmine's tearful and visibly relieved mother, Marcella Anderson, said. "We thank you." Matthews is scheduled for a court appearance on Friday. Police said she 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.
"When she went to the Greyhound station that night, she was looking to abduct a baby," said Philip Cline, chief of detectives for the Chicago Police Department.
A Need for Help
Anderson said a woman with blond hair and a tattoo on the left side of her neck who identified herself only as "Christina" walked off with her daughter at a Chicago Greyhound bus station on Monday.
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.
"She came over and said how beautiful my daughter was and how lovely they [Jasmine and Alicia] were, and offered a little help," Anderson told ABCNEWS' Good Morning America Wednesday. "After I got my bus tickets, I was standing in line with her and [we had] a vague little conversation about her caught coming in from college and how she was going to Milwaukee, and she wished she had known I was going there, too, because she would have offered a ride. I was kind of thinking about it — it was a little easier to have two children in a car than on a bus."
A Friendly Kidnapper
"Christina," 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 Christina, and a man who had helped the young mother with her luggage tried to chase her down, but they were gone, she said.
Anderson said she did not feel uneasy about Christina and did not believe she would have abducted her child.
"She was really warm and friendly," Anderson said. "She didn't seem like the type of person that would take a baby from a mother."
Police said they had at least 100 detectives working on the case and enlisted the help of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, hoping media attention would help with the search and recovery of Jasmine.