Jan. 20, 2011 — -- Carlina White, separated from her family when she was kidnapped as a baby 23 years ago, followed her instincts to reunite with her biological parents, Joy White and Carl Tyson.
"Carlina was a missing link and we have gotten her back in the name of Jesus, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah," said Pat Conway, White's godmother.
On Aug. 4, 1987, worried parents Joy White and Carl Tyson took their feverish baby daughter to Harlem Hospital's emergency room. The visit turned into horror when little Carlina, 9 days old, was kidnapped.
Speaking to the New York Post, the family described the ordeal.
"Way I feel when I lost my daughter, oh my God, that was like a big part of my heart just like, just was ripped apart," Carl Tyson told the Post.
The family says a mystery woman who had been hanging around the hospital for weeks disguised as a nurse was responsible for the kidnapping.
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.
"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," said White.
Carlina 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.
"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 decided to take matters into her own hands.
She 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.
Steve Loftin is the artist behind that composite.
"I was using the photo of her mother and her sister… and characteristics they might share and I went ahead and modeled her after her half sister," Loftin said.
The photos looked eerily similar to baby photos Carlina White's then newborn daughter.
Carlina White: 'I Don't Know Who I Am'
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'm so happy. At the same time, it's a funny feeling because everything's brand new. It's like being born again," Carlina White told The Associated Press.
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, who is now a mother of her a 6-year-old little girl named Samani, 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 last 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.
Police are now searching for the woman who kidnapped Carlina White. Since Carlina was so young when she was kidnapped, it's possible that she could have lived with more than one family as a child and doesn't remember.
The New York Police Department said that a criminal investigation into the disappearance is underway.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.