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1987 baby kidnapper gets 12-year prison sentence

posted 30 Jul 2012, 15:52 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 30 Jul 2012, 17:33 ]

Ann Pettway, who abducted a baby from a Harlem hospital in 1987 and raised her as her own daughter, is given a 12-year sentence for the kidnapping by a New York judge.

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (JULY 30, 2012) (REUTERS) - A woman who abducted a newborn baby from a New York City hospital more than 20 years ago and raised the child as her own was sentenced on Monday (July 30) to 12 years in prison.

Ann Pettway, 50, pleaded guilty in February to the 1987 kidnapping of Carlina White, then 19 days old, from Harlem Hospital, where her parents brought her for treatment of a fever. White, now 25, was reunited with her family in 2011.

At her sentencing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, both parents, now estranged, told the judge and Pettway herself that she had robbed them of the joy of raising their child and ruined their lives.

"You hurt me so bad," an angry Carl Tyson told Pettway, staring at her from the podium where he stood to address U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel. Tyson, 47, was 22 when his infant vanished.

"Our lives will never be the same," sobbed Joy White, now in her 40s, who was 16 when Carlina disappeared. Reunited after 23 years apart, White said their relationship remains fragile. "My daughter is here but she is not home yet."

Pettway, wearing a dark blue prison jumpsuit, begged their forgiveness, speaking to the courtroom packed with onlookers, including her 14-year-old son who believed Carlina White was his sister.

"I would like to apologize to the family," said Pettway, her voice choked with tears. "I am deeply sorry for what I've done... but I'm here today to right my wrong."

Judge Castel then sentenced Pettway for her "crime of selfishness," ordering her to 12 years behind bars followed by three years probation.

"I hope the healing can begin," said Castel.

Outside court, feelings remained raw, however.

"Looking at Ann Pettway, looking at her in her eye, she looking at me, it really got me a little upset because I really wanted to reach over to Ann because Ann put a scar on me and the scar is still there because of my daughter right now. I don't have a chance to really raise my daughter," Tyson told reporters, recounting his feelings as he stood at the podium less than 5 feet from Pettway.

"I wasn't able to take my daughter to school, take my daughter to day care, watch my daughter get on the bus and you know, have birthday parties with my daughter," White said.

White also said Pettway should have received a longer sentence.

"I don't have no sympathy for Ann right about now. So they gave her 12 years, that's what I got to take right about now but I'm not happy with it," said White.

The sentence was part of a plea agreement for Pettway who, her lawyers argued, had a troubled childhood, suffered depression, and was experiencing difficulties conceiving at the time she snatched Carlina White. She originally faced a maximum sentence of life in prison.

According to court documents, Pettway had taken a train from her home in Connecticut to the hospital, where she saw Carlina White. Pettway disguised herself as a nurse, grabbed the bundled baby and took her back home to Bridgeport. There she raised the girl for the next 23 years --about 45 miles east of her parents' home.

When she was 16 and pregnant, Carlina White, who was raised as Nejdra Nance, became suspicious of Pettway when she was unable to produce the girl's birth certificate or Social Security number. In 2011, Carlina White tracked down her biological parents in New York through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

After DNA tests confirmed Carlina White was the parents' missing child, the family was reunited. Soon afterward, Pettway turned herself in to authorities.

Tyson, a truck driver, said his daughter is now living in Atlanta with his granddaughter, who is now 7 years old. He said their relationship is building.