The aunt of a 6-day-old Wisconsin baby kidnapped the newborn after pretending to be pregnant, federal prosecutors alleged in a complaint filed Friday.
Kristen Rose Smith’s cellphone contained emails in which she said she gave birth Wednesday, hours before Kayden Powell was reported abducted from his home, FBI special agent Bryan Baker wrote in an affidavit attached to Smith’s arrest warrant.
Smith, 31, had also posted on Facebook about being pregnant. Police found a prosthetic belly in her car.
Smith had been staying with her sister and her sister’s boyfriend in Beloit, Wis., and had planned to leave at 2 a.m. to drive back to her home in Denver.
At 4:30 a.m., the baby’s mother called 911 saying that Kayden was missing. Smith was gone, too.
Smith called her grandmother at the Beloit home at 4:54 a.m, saying that the baby and his parents were planning to move in with her in Denver on Saturday. She claimed to not have the baby, but said she had some of his clothing.
The grandmother handed the phone to police, who directed Smith to pull over to the nearest gas station. She complied and was arrested for an unrelated and unspecified warrant issued in Texas.
Smith, who denied kidnapping the child, let investigators search her cellphone, Facebook account and car. After she failed polygraph tests, she told authorities that she left the baby with a relative in Chicago and had nothing to do with the disappearance.
On Friday morning, West Branch, Iowa, Police Chief Mike Horihan heard the baby’s cries during a canvass of the area near the gas station, the FBI said. The baby was found in a “plastic tote box” left outside. It was behind a second gas station 500 yards away from the gas station where Smith was arrested, nearly 200 miles from Beloit.
Smith, who is being held in Cedar County Jail, is charged with one count of kidnapping. If convicted, she faces life in federal prison.
Beloit Police Chief Steven Kopp said at a news conference that Kayden was in excellent condition despite cold temperatures.
“We pursued every conceivable lead in this,” said G.B. Jones, acting special agent in charge of Milwaukee’s FBI office. He called the baby “amazingly resilient.”
“It’s miraculous,” Jones said.