A US woman who snatched a three week old baby from a New York hospital in 1987 and brought her up as her own daughter until being caught last year, has been sentenced to 12 years jail.
Ann Pettway was mentally ill and distraught over repeated miscarriages when she dressed up as a nurse and kidnapped Carlina White from Harlem Hospital on August 4, 1987, Judge Kevin Castel said on Monday.?But in passing sentence, the Manhattan federal judge said she had “inflicted a parents’ worst nightmare”.
Earlier in the emotional court hearing, Pettway, 50, told the tearful biological parents of White that she was “deeply sorry”.?”I’m here today to right a wrong,” she said in a brief statement to a courtroom filled with her family members and those of White, the two groups sitting on opposite sides.?But that wasn’t good enough for White’s parents, who spoke movingly about the agony of having their newborn vanish, then of 23 years of sorrow and now the anguish that continues to overshadow their joyful reunion last year.
“I am completely broken into a million pieces,” the mother, Joy White, said, describing how her daughter has yet to disentangle her identity after being raised by another woman.
“My daughter’s here, but she’s not home yet,” she said.?The father, Carl Tyson, looked fiercely at Pettway when he made his own statement to the court. “For 23 years, Ann, you had me not only suffering but you also put an iron in my heart.”
The young woman at the centre of the tragedy, Carlina White, was?psychologically?and notably absent from the packed courtroom but she was in every heart.?During the mother’s comments, Pettway turned her eyes away, yet she looked Tyson right back in the face as he castigated her.?”I know you have your family and friends here,” he told Pettway, “But they don’t really know what you’ve done to me.”? Outside the courtroomTyson told reporters, he thought the sentence of 12 years prison and three years probation was too light. “I wanted 23 years.”
Pettway, then 26, had suffered three miscarriages and was deeply depressed when she came up with her tragic plan, the judge said.?After taking the 19-day-old infant home, she gave her a new name and lied to her about her identity as she grew up surrounded by Pettway’s other relatives.?White, who is now 25, became suspicious and contacted the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which confirmed her true family through a DNA test.
White and her parents were reunited last year. Pettway was arrested and pleaded guilty to kidnapping.Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said Pettway had “shattered three lives, the life of the child who did not know her biological parents for such a long time, and the lives of her parents who were left to wonder what had become of their baby.?”While this sentence certainly cannot compensate them for what they lost, it is our sincere hope that they can repair the breach that was caused on that terrible day, when their baby was?snatchedby Pettway.?In the closing remarks Judge, Castel said simply “Ms Pettway, Ms White, Mr Tyson, I hope the healing can begin.”
FRANCIS TAWIAH (Duisburg – Germany)