Police Return Baby Kidnaped From Mother’s Hospital Room
A day-old baby boy who had been stolen from his mother’s bedside by a woman who slipped past a Los Angeles hospital’s elaborate security system was found late Thursday less than a mile from the hospital and was returned unharmed to his parents.
Liborio Gonzalez Jr., the child of Guadalupe Villar, 33, was recovered by Los Angeles police acting on a telephone tip 14 1/2 hours after the swaddled baby was snatched from Villar’s first-floor room at White Memorial Medical Center about 8:30 a.m., police said.
Both the mother and child had been asleep when the baby was silently lifted from his bassinet and spirited out of the room in a pink and blue receiving blanket, investigators said.
“We found the baby at a local address in the Hollenbeck Division, just a few minutes before 11 p.m.,” said Lt. Mike Felix of the Los Angeles Police Department.
The suspected abductor--a Latina about 45 years old, who had been recorded on a hospital security videotape--was with the baby at a residence in the 1100 block of Marietta Street in Boyle Heights when police arrived and surrendered calmly, he said.
The woman’s name was not immediately available; Felix said she had been arrested on suspicion of kidnaping. Details of the arrest, however, were sketchy.
“Right now, though, we’re trying to piece it all together,” Felix said. “From what we can tell, it may be that the suspect knew at least some of the family members, and may be a relative.”
Shaken hospital officials said the abductor apparently eluded guards as she entered the medical center, located in the 1700 block of Cesar E. Chavez Avenue. Once inside, she passed through a card key-controlled doorway to the maternity ward by following an employee.
A nurse discovered the infant missing “an extremely short time later,” said medical center spokesman Mark Newmyer.
Officials were uncertain whether Villar’s private room was locked at the time of the abduction, Newmyer added. There are about 20 rooms in the maternity unit, he said.
About 30 Los Angeles police officers were sent to the hospital to interview patients and employees. “I don’t know how that person got in here,” said the child’s father, Liborio Gonzalez Sr., a 39-year-old Eastside truck driver who was not in the room at the time of the abduction. “Things happen because they’re going to happen sometimes.”
But he urged hospital officials to tighten security around newborns.
Newmyer said the medical center is investigating the apparent security breach. He said hospital employees are required to wear badges and visitors must have passes displayed on their shirts.
The card key lock system--which requires employees to use computer-controlled access cards to unlock doors--was installed about a year ago, he said.
Police said hospital guards questioned the apparent abductor as she left the medical center with the infant beneath a blanket positioned over her shoulder. The woman said she had been visiting her sister, then strolled out and climbed into a car driven by a Latino man, according to investigators.
Officials said Thursday’s abduction had some similarities to an attempted kidnaping at the same hospital six years ago.
In that incident, a 39-year-old woman was arrested after taking a 6-month-old baby who was being treated in the facility for diarrhea.
Nurses noticed a woman hanging around the newborn ward and asked her to leave, according to officials. She did, but she returned the next day and took the baby from a second-floor pediatric ward room.
An alert nurse grabbed the baby and shouted for co-workers to call guards. Security officers seized the woman on the third floor in the June 10, 1988, incident.
Times staff writer Nieson Himmel contributed to this story.
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