Woman who stole baby 24 years ago (and raised it) pleads guilty

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Ann Pettway, who stole a baby from a Manhattan hospital more than two decades ago and raised the child as her own, pleaded guilty Friday to federal kidnapping charges and will spend at least 10 years in prison.

The case, which combined elements of lost childhood, misidentity and the resolution of a mystery long gone cold, had captured the country’s imagination. It was eventually broken open by the child, Carlina White, now 24.

White questioned why she lacked a birth certificate, then turned to websites specializing in missing children -- and discovered the truth. It was a photo of a stolen baby on the Internet that looked like her own pictures that sent Carlina White off to find her biological parents.

Standing before Judge Kevin Castel in federal court on Friday, Pettway, of North Carolina, acknowledged taking the baby, just 19 days old, from Harlem Hospital in 1987 and whisking her off to Bridgeport, Conn., to be raised as her own, according to media reports of the proceedings.


The baby had been brought to the hospital with a fever and had an intravenous drip attached to her arm. Pettway told authorities she pretended to be a nurse to gain access to the child. She said she took the baby because she didn’t believe she could ever be a mother after having several miscarriages.

“I took a child, “ Pettway said in court Friday, adding later, “It was wrong.”

Castel set May 14 for sentencing. Pettway, 51, could have faced life in prison but as part of the plea agreement, she will be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 12.5 years.

Joy White, 41, a Bronx resident and Carlina White’s biological mother, attended the proceedings and told reporters she was unhappy with what she saw as a lenient sentence.

“I’ve been suffering and been through pain for 23 years,” White said, arguing that Pettway should do the same amount of time in prison.


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-- Michael Muskal