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April 13, 2008 permalink
Houston mother Raeshala Raylette Morris lost her daughter to child protectors. Her response? Grab a replacement from a day-care center.
Houston day-care worker charged in baby's kidnapping
Suspect's own toddler was placed in foster care earlier this year
A woman accused of abducting a 21-month-old girl from a southwest Houston day care center had her own 2-year-old daughter taken away by Child Protective Services in January.
Raeshala Raylette Morris, 21, was charged Saturday with the Friday afternoon kidnapping of Jakaila Brantley from Mothercare Day Care at 8133 Beech Cove Lane, where Morris worked.
Jakaila was found unharmed hours later. Police said she was sitting with Morris on the stairs at a vacant apartment in the 9900 block of Club Creek in southwest Houston. The little girl was dressed in her twin brother's clothes, and her hair was arranged like a boy's.
Jakaila is close in age to Morris' own daughter, who was placed in foster care three months ago because of physical neglect, said CPS spokeswoman Gwen Carter.
"She wasn't able to meet (her daughter's) needs, and we weren't able to find a relative who was willing or able to care for her," Carter said.
After an emotional reunion with her parents Friday evening, Jakaila spent Saturday playing with her favorite Spiderman toys and picnicking at a park, her mother, Shemika Thacker-Brantley, said.
"She's doing great. She's happy to be back with her brothers," Thacker-Brantley said.
"I can tell her spirits are a little different, though. She's really clingy now. She's been really independent and free spirited, and now she's following her dad everywhere he goes. Every step she takes, she's right behind him."
Thacker-Brantley said she thinks Morris, who was in a Harris County jail Saturday on $5,000 bond, was trying to replace her own child.
"It's very creepy," she said. "I still can't believe that this happened."
Jakaila and her two brothers, including a twin, have attended Mothercare Day Care for about six weeks. Now, Thacker-Brantley said she hopes to see the center shut down.
Police said Friday that the day care failed to perform a background check on Morris. Authorities said people who know the young woman told officers that she might suffer from mental illness.
CPS officials said child-care licensing authorities will open an investigation into the kidnapping this week.
Rita Obodoechina, who acknowledged she is the owner of Mothercare Day Care, declined to comment Saturday.
The center has been inspected six times since July 10, 2006, according to records from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Violations of licensing standards were found each time, though some were minor. All were reported corrected.
An inspection on Feb. 22 said that background checks on two workers had not been completed after 24 months.
Anita Hassan contributed to this story.
Source: Houston Chronicle