Woman Confesses to Snatching Baby 20 Years Ago: FBI

Dad of kidnapped baby says adjustment is hard

By LARRY NEUMEISTER, TOM HAYS and Tom Llamas
|  Monday, Jan 24, 2011  |  Updated 4:56 PM EDT
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A North Carolina woman accused of kidnapping a baby from a New York City hospital 23 years ago has been ordered held without bail on kidnapping charges.

Ann Pettway has admitted kidnapping the baby after her own attempts to have children failed, saying in a statement she was "truly sorry,'' the FBI said in court papers Monday.

Pettway surrendered Sunday morning to the FBI and Bridgeport, Conn., on a warrant from North Carolina, where she is on probation for a conviction for attempted embezzlement, FBI supervisory special agent William Reiner said.

Pettway surrendered days after a widely publicized reunion between the child she raised -- now 23-year-old Carlina White -- and her biological mother

Pettway wore a blue prison jumpsuit, folded her hands, stared straight ahead and didn't say a word during her five-minute appearance in federal court Monday in Manhattan.

She confessed to taking the baby in early August 1987 from Harlem Hospital during an interview Sunday after she surrendered to the FBI and Bridgeport, Conn., police, a criminal complaint prepared by FBI Agent Maria Johnson said.

According to the complaint, Pettway allegedly admitted to difficulty having her own children in the 1980s and suffered several miscarriages. In 1987, she went to Harlem Hospital and spotted baby Carlina White was just 19 days old when her parents took her to Harlem Hospital in the middle of the night with a high fever.

Joy White and Carl Tyson said a woman who looked like a nurse had comforted them. The couple left the hospital to rest, but their baby was missing when they went back. No suspects were identified.

Pettway took the baby without consent, brought her outside and when no one stopped her, she took the child on a train to her home in Bridgeport, Conn., according to court documents. Pettway also said she told family and friends Carlina was her child. She tried to create a fake birth certificate for the baby girl, but failed, court document say.

An FBI special agent handling the case who interviewed Pettway Sunday said she is sorry and knows her behavior has caused pain. The agent also said Pettway wrote a statement for the FBI outlining what she did.

In an appearance on NBC's "Today" show on Monday, Tyson said he was very happy to have found his daughter, now a 23-year-old adult.

"I have my whole puzzle. I have all my four kids now," he said. But he admitted he didn't know what he was supposed to be doing with a 23-year old.

"Should I be feeding her baby food?" he joked.

Tyson said he would like to ask Pettway "why she did this to me for 23 years."

Carlina White has been living under the name Nejdra Nance in Connecticut and in the Atlanta area. She said she had long suspected Pettway wasn't her biological mother because she could never provide her with a birth certificate and because she didn't look like anyone else in Pettway's family.

She periodically checked the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and while looking through New York photos early this month found one that looked nearly identical to her own baby picture. She contacted Joy White through the center.

White and Nance met in New York before DNA tests were complete, confident they were mother and daughter. After the test results confirmed it Wednesday, Nance returned from Atlanta to be with White again.

Pettway remained in custody Sunday and couldn't be reached for comment. A woman who answered the phone at a Pettway relative's home in Bridgeport on Sunday refused to comment on her surrender.

Pettway received two years of probation last June after she took items from a store where she worked, which is considered embezzlement under North Carolina law, state correction spokeswoman Pamela Walker said. Under terms of her probation, she wasn't allowed to leave the state.

Department of Correction officials there tried repeatedly to contact her after finding out investigators wanted to question her in Carlina's 1987 abduction.

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