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Rare Judicial Respose to Kidnapping

July 30, 2012 permalink

Ann Pettway seized a three-week-old baby from mother Joy White and raised the girl as her own. It took 24 years before mother and daughter were reunited. The justice system knows how to deal with kidnapping as long as it is not done by social workers. Ann Pettway has been sentenced to twelve years.



Pettway gets 12 years for kidnapping baby

Carl Tyson
Carl Tyson leaves the courthouse in Manhattan on Monday July 30, 2012 after a federal judge sentenced Ann Pettway to 12 years in prison for kidnapping Tyson's daughter Carlina White from Harlem Hospital in 1987 and then spending the next 23 years raising her as Nedjra Nance in Bridgeport, Conn.
Photo: Michael P. Mayko / Connecticut Post

NEW YORK -- Another chapter in the bizarre story of two lives forever shattered was written Monday when a federal judge sentenced Ann Pettway to 12 years in prison for kidnapping a three-week old baby from Harlem Hospital in 1987 and then spending the next 23 years raising her as her own in Bridgeport.

This time U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel authored the chapter.

Ann Pettway, of Raleigh, N.C., was sentenced Monday in Manhattan. He will also have three years of supervised release after completing the 12-year sentence

She pleaded guilty in February to kidnapping, saying she took a train from her Connecticut home to Harlem Hospital in 1987. While there, she said, she scooped up Carlina White, a 3-week-old who was brought to the emergency room with a fever.

As part of Pettway's plea bargain, prosecutors recommended 10 to 12½ years in prison. But they raised the suggested sentence to 20 years last week, saying the Probation Department had unearthed new facts about the case that made a stiffer sentence more appropriate. The judge handed down the 12-year sentence Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Prosecutors said it appeared that Pettway, of Raleigh, N.C., kidnapped the ailing infant because she wanted a baby "and constructed a web of lies that denied the child the truth about her family for 23 years."

They said Pettway "brazenly took the daughter from a hospital crib and, when no one stopped her, brought the daughter home with her to Bridgeport, Conn. If the offense had ended there, in 1987, a lengthy sentence of imprisonment would have been warranted for kidnapping alone. But the offense did not end there. Instead it continued for 23 years."

The government also had challenged her lawyers' contention that she provided a "stable, loving and happy home," saying that Pettway was convicted of five crimes while White was in her custody and had told the Probation Department that she used cocaine from 1983 through 2005 and smoked marijuana every day until she was in her early 30s. It also said White's biological mother had informed the Probation Department that her daughter told her that Pettway once hit her with a shoe so hard that it left an imprint on her face.

As Pettway admitted her guilt, Carlina's birth mother, Joy White, quietly cried in the courtroom gallery. Afterward, she told reporters that she was outraged at the plea bargain and felt a decade in prison would be too light a punishment for the woman who had robbed her so cruelly. Justice, she said, would be one year for every year she was separated from Carlina.

"I've lost 23 years of being with my daughter," she said, adding that those decades were filled with pain and heartache.

During the proceeding, Pettway told the court: "I went to the hospital. I took a child. It was wrong." In a letter to the judge before sentencing, Pettway apologized and said the kidnapping would never have occurred if seeking professional help for mental trauma from her failed pregnancies and being able to discuss family secrets had not been forbidden in her family's home.

"Because of my actions so many lives were hurt," she said in the handwritten letter.

She said she still loves the woman she raised, "a wonderful bright young woman."

"All I can do now is ask forgiveness from her and her parents. It may not sound correct on paper but I am hopelessly SORRY," she wrote. "My action led to such a huge loss for her parents, but there is nothing I can do to right this wrong that I committed."

White said she encountered Pettway at the hospital on the day her daughter disappeared, dressed like a nurse. "She came up to me and said to me, `Don't cry. Your daughter is going to be OK.'"

The case was solved by Carlina herself.

As she grew up in Bridgeport under the name Nejdra Nance, the girl became increasingly suspicious of her own identity. Pettway ultimately told her a part-truth. She admitted that she was someone else's daughter but claimed she had been willingly given away by a drug addict.

Carlina White said she browsed the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for clues to her identity. After matching a photo of herself with one on the site, she tracked down her true mother and they reunited in January of 2011. A DNA test confirmed they were mother and child.

Today, they speak every day, Joy White said.

"I love my daughter. She's a beautiful girl," she said, adding that she had kept a picture of her missing baby at her bedside for 23 years.

White, now 25 and reverting back to her Bridgeport name of Nedjra Nance,, was in Georgia working on what is expected to be a book and a made for Lifetime TV movie on her bizarre life. She lives there with her daughter, Samani.

The story came to light in January, 2011 after Nance had her DNA matched with those of Carl Tyson and Jo White, a mother and father who had brought their daughter to Harlem Hospital on Aug. 4, 1987 for treatment of a fever. The next day the daughter was gone. For years, Nance had been suspicious about the story Pettway Pettway being her mother and contacted the National for Missing and Exploited Children. A baby photo of the missing Harlem Hospital child was sent White and looked very much like ones she had seen of her self taken by the Pettway. The DNA test was then taken.

This then led to a celebrated reunion with her birth parents and the arrest of Pettway.

But that reunion was short-lived after White discovered her birth parents had spent the hospital's insurance settlement which had been held in trust for her, in the event she was found.

Meanwhile Pettway and her lawyer told the judge she was suffering from mental illness resulting from depression over several miscarriages when she kidnapped the infant from the hospital.

Source: Greenwich Time