A woman who snatched a 19-day-old baby from a New York hospital ward and brought her up as her own under a different name 24 years ago has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Ann Pettway, who pleaded guilty, said she was deeply sorry for what she had done, although she offered no explanation. She told the court: “I’m here today to right my wrong.”
Pettway carried out the abduction on 4 August 1987. Dressed as a nurse, she swiped baby Carlina White from her cot on a ward of a Harlem hospital in Manhattan, and took her back to her own home in Connecticut.
She raised the child there and later in Georgia under the name Nejdra Nance. When she grew older, the child began to have doubts about her parentage and confronted Pettway, who admitted that she was not the mother but told White that she had been given away by a woman addicted to drugs.
White remained unconvinced, and eventually made contact with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children through which she discovered a website page devoted to finding her. The center put her in touch with the parents who had lost their baby in 1987 and DNA samples were taken of the three that matched.
The New York Post reported that at the sentencing hearing Carlina White’s natural mother, Joy White, with whom she was reunited last year, said: “I’m broken into a million pieces. I continue to ache for my daughter every minute of every day all because she decided to kidnap my baby.”
The natural father, Carl Tyson, who is separated from Joy White, had harsher words for his baby’s kidnapper. “I’ve been suffering for the past 23 years. I wanted to reach over there and really strangle her, to be honest.”
Tyson also expressed anger at the decision of the judge, Kevin Castel, to give what he considered to be such a short sentence. “If this happened to the judge, how would he feel?”
Carlina White, now 24, was not present at court. She is understood to have struck a movie deal and is keeping silent at present.
Sentencing Pettway, the judge said that she had “inflicted a parent’s worstnightmare on a young couple who was only concerned about the health of their baby.”
Preet Bharara, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, said that Pettway had “shattered three lives – the life of the child who would not know her parents, and the lives of her parents who were left to wonder what had become of their baby. While this sentence certainly cannot compensate them for what they lost, it is our sincere hope that they can repair the breach that was caused on that terrible day.”
Watch the video, broadcast on WPIX on July 30.