By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A cousin of a woman accused of kidnapping an infant from a New York hospital more than two decades ago said Monday that the family assumed the baby was hers because she had appeared to be pregnant.
Brian Pettway said his cousin, Ann Pettway, returned to her home in Bridgeport, Conn., with the child after vanishing for a period in 1987. He said the family was shocked by the revelation that the girl had been taken from her true parents.
“We all assumed that she had the baby we visibly saw her pregnant with,” Brian Pettway said.
Ann Pettway surrendered Sunday, days after a widely publicized reunion between the child she raised, now an adult, and the biological mother.
She faced a court hearing Monday in New York, where authorities said she confessed to taking the baby after she had trouble having her own children. An FBI agent said in court papers charging Pettway with kidnapping that Pettway suffered several miscarriages before taking the baby from Harlem Hospital.
Brian Pettway, a 38-year-old New Haven resident, said his cousin raised the girl “as best she could” but said she lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood in Bridgeport. He said the girl seemed happy and pleasant.
“We’re all left with our mouths opened,” he said. “It’s kind of like a double loss. We accepted her as family. Unbeknownst to us, she was not our family.”
Carlina White was just 19 days old when her parents took her to the hospital in the middle of the night with a high fever. Joy White and Carl Tyson said a woman who looked like a nurse had comforted them. The couple left the hospital to rest, but their baby was missing when they went back. No suspects were identified.
Carlina White has been living under the name Nejdra Nance in Connecticut and in the Atlanta area. She said she had long suspected Pettway wasn’t her biological mother because she could never provide her with a birth certificate and because she didn’t look like anyone else in Pettway’s family.
She periodically checked the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and while looking through New York photos early this month found one that looked nearly identical to her own baby picture. She contacted Joy White through the center.
White and Nance met in New York before DNA tests were complete, confident they were mother and daughter. After the test results confirmed it Wednesday, Nance returned from Atlanta to be with White again.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)