US & Canada

Ann Pettway jailed for 12 years in New York baby kidnap

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Media captionCarlina White's real mother, Joy White, and her father, Carl Tyson, describe their feelings about Ann Pettway

A US woman who stole a baby from a New York City hospital in 1987 and raised the child as her own has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Pettway, 51, was arrested last year after the victim, Carlina White, discovered she had been kidnapped.

She pleaded guilty in February to kidnapping the three-week-old Ms White from hospital.

Prosecutors increased their recommended sentence to 20 years, saying they had uncovered new facts about the case.

They specifically challenged the defence's contention that Pettway had provided a "stable, loving and happy home", for Ms White for 23 years. She was raised as Nejdra Nance in Connecticut and later in Georgia.

Pettway was convicted of five crimes while Ms White was in her custody, according to a probation department, and had used cocaine from 1983 to 2005.

Ms White's biological mother, Joy White, also told probation officers that her daughter told her that Pettway had once hit her with a shoe, leaving an imprint on her face.

'I took a child'

In a letter ahead of the sentencing hearing, Pettway apologised and said the kidnapping would have never occurred if she had sought professional help after her failed pregnancies.

"Because of my actions so many lives were hurt," she said, adding that she had raised "a wonderful bright young woman".

In her plea agreement, Pettway told the court how she had caught a train from her home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to New York, where she snatched the 19-day-old from Harlem Hospital, after the baby was brought there with a fever by her parents.

"I went to the hospital," said Pettway. "I took a child. It was wrong.''

As part of her plea bargain, prosecutors originally recommended a sentence of 10 to 12 years in prison.

Image caption Ann Pettway surrendered to FBI agents last year after a warrant was issued for her arrest

Joy White told reporters afterwards that Pettway should serve 23 years in jail, one for every year she had been separated from her daughter.

Joy White said she remembered Pettway, posing as a nurse, consoling her before picking up the baby and waking away.

After being unable to shake off a sense that she did not belong to the family that raised her, Carlina White began her own inquiries.

Pettway then admitted that she was someone else's daughter, but claimed she had been abandoned by a drug addict.

Ms White traced her true mother after finding a photo of herself on the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

DNA tests last year confirmed her as the daughter of Joy White and Carl Tyson.

The case made headlines internationally and solved a mystery that had baffled police for more than two decades.

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