Ann Pettway's Confession About Kidnapping Carlina White

Ann Pettway is arraigned and ordered held without bail.

Jan. 24, 2011 — -- Ann Pettway confessed to authorities that she kidnapped Carlina White 23 years ago after enduring several miscarriages and today was ordered held without bail.

Pettway was arraigned on one federal kidnapping charge in Manhattan federal court this afternoon.

If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of life in prison and a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Pettway, 49, looked defeated and downcast as she was arraigned. She did not enter a plea and was ordered held without bail.

Earlier she told officials that she is "truly sorry," according to the criminal complaint filed today.

"Pettway was dealing with the stress of trying to be a mom and had had several miscarriages. She did not believe she would ever be able to be a parent," according to a court document filed by FBI Special Agent Maria Johnson who interviewed Pettway. Johnson is a member of the FBI's Crimes Against Children Squad.

Pettway told the FBI that she took White, then just 19 days old, from Harlem Hospital in 1987.

"When no one stopped Pettway, Pettway took the victim with her on a train to Pettway's home in Bridgeport, Connecticut," according to Johnson's court document. "Pettway told her friends and family members that the victim was her child. "

She told authorities that she tried to create a fake birth certificate for White, renaming her Nejdra Nance, but was unable to create a fake document that appeared real, according to court documents.

The lack of a birth certificate was one of the things that made Carlina White suspicious that something was not right. According to court documents, when White asked Pettway for her birth certificate, the woman lied, saying she didn't have one because White had been given to her by a woman who used drugs.

White ultimately discovered that she had been kidnapped as a baby by searching missing children web sites, and earlier this year was finally reunited with her real family.

"Nothing can compensate Carlina White or her parents for what was stolen from them when she was seized from the Harlem Hospital 23 years ago," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said today. "But now they have been reunited, and the woman who allegedly kidnapped Carlina and deprived this family of the lives they would have had together will be prosecuted in Manhattan federal court."

White's worried parents, Joy White and Carl Tyson, had taken their feverish daughter to the hospital 23 years ago. Pettway posed a nurse, took the baby from the couple and pretended to take her for treatment. The couple didn't see their daughter until earlier this month when White's true identity was established.

"Pettway took the victim from the victim's family and this was totally unacceptable. Pettway is truly sorry," according to Johnson's court document.

Pettway turned herself in to FBI officials in Bridgeport, Conn., on Sunday. Lt. David Daniels was the point person from the Bridgeport Police Department who helped arrange the surrender. Daniels said that Pettway had a relative contact the authorities through Facebook.

Daniels said that the Pettway family is well known in the area and that his own sister had been friends with Pettway.

Daniels, with the help of the FBI, arranged a neutral location to meet Pettway. He said that she was relieved to confess.

She "looked like the world was lifted off her shoulders ... looked a bit relieved ... because she had been running," Daniels said.

Carlina White Kidnapped, Given New Name

Pettway went on the run last week after the kidnapping and reunion of White with her biological family made headlines, police said. Authorities issued a warrant for Pettway's arrest last Friday for violating her parole in a North Carolina embezzlement case.

"Up until this point, she had been making all direct contacts with her probation officer. The last face-to-face contact was on Jan. 6," Pamela Walker from the North Carolina Department of Corrections said.

Pettway narrowly escaped capture at a pawn shop in Connecticut on Saturday. The shop's manager recognized the ex-con from television and called police.

"They determined based on from surveillance video that it was her," Det. Keith Bryant from the Bridgeport Police said.

Daniels said that Pettway made it from North Carolina, where she lived, to Connecticut to ensure that her natural born son would be taken care of before she surrendered.

Pettway, the woman who White called Mom while growing up, has several aliases as well as a criminal history that includes charges of embezzlement, forgery, theft and drugs.

The surrender and upcoming arraignment of Pettway is something the family of Carlina White has been waiting to see for more than two decades.

"You're going to jail," Elizabeth White, aunt of Carlina White, said.

"She needs help, for her to take someone's child and make that person suffer," Lisa White, another of Carlina White's aunts, said.

Carlina White described Pettway to the New York Post as an abusive mother who would throw things like shoes at her. Pettway later moved to Atlanta, taking Carlina with her.

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 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,"White's maternal grandmother, Elizabeth White, told The Associated Press.

Carlina White Cracks Her Own Cold Case

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.

The photos looked eerily similar to baby photos of herself.

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.

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.

ABC News' Kaitlyn Folmer contributed to this report.

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