Woman stolen as baby 18 years ago learns her true iden­tity; ‘Momma’ faces charges

Houston Chronicle - - NATION | WORLD - By Ja­son Dearen and Russ Bynum

WAL­TER­BORO, S.C. — Stolen from a hospi­tal just hours af­ter she was born, an 18-year-old woman fi­nally learned her true iden­tity and was re­united Fri­day with her birth fam­ily, by video chat. The woman she thought was her mother was charged with her kid­nap­ping.

Thanks to DNA anal­y­sis, the 18-year-old now knows her birth name: Kamiyah Mobley.

She’s in good health but un­der­stand­ably over­whelmed, Jack­sonville Sher­iff Mike Wil­liams said.

Glo­ria Wil­liams, 51, was ar­rested at her home in Wal­ter­boro, S.C., early Fri­day on charges of kid­nap­ping and in­ter­fer­ence with cus­tody.

‘Tears of joy’

Mobley — who was raised un­der her given name, Alexis Manigo — was al­lowed to spend a few emo­tional mo­ments with Wil­liams on Fri­day. She cried “Momma” through the caged win­dow of a se­cu­rity door af­ter Wil­liams waived ex­tra­di­tion to Florida, ac­cord­ing to the TV sta­tion News4JAX.

A much dif­fer­ent scene was de­scribed by the young woman’s birth fam­ily. They cried “tears of joy” af­ter a de­tec­tive told them their baby had been found. Within hours Fri­day, they were able to re­con­nect over Face­Time.

“She looks just like her daddy,” her pa­ter­nal grand­mother, Velma Aiken of Jack­sonville, told the As­so­ci­ated Press af­ter they were able to see each other for the first time. “She act like she been talk­ing to us all the time. She told us she’d be here soon to see us.”

Mobley was only 8 hours old when she was taken from her young mother by a woman pos­ing as a nurse at Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter. A mas­sive search en­sued, with he­li­copters cir­cling the hospi­tal and the city on high alert. Thou­sands of tips came in over the years, but she had dis­ap­peared.

All that time, Kamiyah’s neigh­bors in Wal­ter­boro knew her as Glo­ria Wil­liams’ daugh­ter.

“She wasn’t an abused child or a child who got in trou­ble. But she grew up with a lie for 18 years,” said Joseph Jenk­ins, who lives across the street.

Some months ago, the young woman “had an in­cli­na­tion” that she may have been kid­napped, the sher­iff said. Au­thor­i­ties didn’t say why she sus­pected this.

The case broke thanks to a tip re­ceived by the Na­tional Cen­ter for Miss­ing and Ex­ploited Chil­dren, said Robert Low­ery, a cen­ter vice pres­i­dent. He would not say from whom the tip came.

Proof in the DNA

But the cen­ter soon reached out to the cold case de­tec­tives at the sher­iff’s of­fice, and Mobley pro­vided a swab of her cheek for DNA anal­y­sis that proved the match, the sher­iff said.

“This was some­thing brand-new to all of us,” said Te­sha Stephens, a cousin of Wil­liams, who spoke to re­porters out­side their home Fri­day evening.

The cen­ter has tracked 308 in­fant ab­duc­tions since 1983 by non-fam­ily mem­bers in the U.S. Of those cases, 12 were still miss­ing at the end of last month. That’s now one num­ber smaller.

“Right now, she’s hold­ing up,” Stephens said. “She’s pro­cess­ing ev­ery­thing and she’s prob­a­bly go­ing to have to take this day-by-day.”

The woman has been pro­vided with coun­sel­ing, the sher­iff said. Mean­while, Aiken is thrilled to know they can speak with each other as much as they want.

“I al­ways prayed, ‘Don’t let me die be­fore I see my grand­baby,’ ” said Aiken. “My prayer was an­swered.”

Hope for oth­ers

The fam­ily never for­got the lit­tle girl ripped from her mother’s arms that day in 1998.

“It’s stress­ful to wake up ev­ery day, know­ing that your child is out there and you have no way to reach her or talk to her,” Mobley told the pa­per in 2008.

News moved quickly through the com­mu­nity of about 5,100 peo­ple early Fri­day af­ter po­lice cars swarmed Wil­liams’ home.

Wil­liams also worked for the Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs’ hospi­tal in Charleston, vol­un­teered in the area for Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity and led the youth pro­gram at a Methodist church, she said.

“She’s very in­tel­li­gent, smart as a whip,” said Ruben Boatwright, who has known Wil­liams 15 years. “All I can say are good things about her.”

The cen­ter’s Low­ery said this case shines a bea­con to many other par­ents still miss­ing chil­dren.

“We have a lot of par­ents out there look­ing for their chil­dren, and have been for many years, and this pro­vides them with ad­di­tional hope that one day they may find their child,” he said.

Will Dickey / Florida Times Union via As­so­ci­ated Press

Velma Aiken, grand­mother of Kamiyah Mobley, who was kid­napped as an in­fant 18 years ago, cel­e­brates with a fam­ily mem­ber af­ter Mobley was found safe.

Wil­liams

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