Report of Kidnaping Was False, Police Say

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reports that spurred a widespread police search for a 10-month-old child purportedly kidnaped over the weekend when a gunman stole a car from the baby's mother were false, Los Angeles police said Wednesday.

Lt. Ted Oglesby said the woman falsely claimed that her daughter had been abducted apparently to prompt police to find the missing car quickly.

After 600 hours of investigation--costing more than $16,000 in salaries--the child was located safe in Richmond on Tuesday afternoon by local police acting on information unearthed by detectives in Los Angeles, Oglesby said.

The child, who was with a baby-sitter, had never been in Los Angeles; was actually 2 years old, and was named Sherika Nettles, not Erika Johnson, as claimed by her mother. In addition the mother, who told police that her name was Erika Scott, 23, is actually Betty Ann Gaines, Oglesby said.

Oglesby said Gaines, who disappeared shortly after filing the kidnap report, has been seen in Richmond and is expected to be charged with filing a false police report.

Police were told by Gaines on Sunday evening that she had been sitting in a car while waiting for a friend, Sheila Hood, 21, to come out of a home at 83rd Street and Broadway, approached her and pointed a gun.

"Get out," Gaines quoted the gunman as saying. She told police the man knew that her daughter was in the back seat of the 1984 Mazda, but drove off anyway.

After Gaines disappeared, police speculated she was on her own frantic search for her daughter.

In truth, Oglesby said, Gaines and her friend, Hood, allegedly were attempting to buy marijuana at the home. The car, which had been taken from Hood's boyfriend without his knowledge, was located Monday, not far from where it was allegedly stolen. Hood was subsequently arrested on suspicion of filing a false police report.

As to whether there ever was a gunman, Oglesby said that, under the circumstances, investigators have no way of knowing for sure.

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