A Florida newborn taken from her family in the hospital more than 18 years ago has been located living with her alleged abductor, who she believed to be her mom, law enforcement announced Friday.
Kamiyah Mobley was only hours old when authorities say a woman posing as a health care worker took her from a Jacksonville, Florida, hospital in July 1998.
According to local reports, Kamiyah was briefly given to woman because her family believed the woman was a nurse, while hospital staff believed the woman was a relative.
On Friday, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said at a news conference that Kamiyah had been found in Walterboro, South Carolina, living under a false identity apparently created for her following her abduction.
The woman who Kamiyah believed to be her mother, Gloria Williams, was arrested Friday and charged with first-degree kidnapping and third-degree interference with custody, prosecutors said.
Gloria Williams was arrested at her home in Walterboro, Sheriff Williams said. Kamiyah was not present.
Kamiyah’s disappearance in 1998 made national news and continued to garner attention as it turned cold over the years, becoming the rarest of rare things: a child’s hospital abduction that was never solved.
That changed this week, when on Thursday night authorities confirmed Kamiyah’s identity after they were led to her by a series of leads beginning late last year, Sheriff Williams said.
He said Kamiyah has had “some inclination” beginning several months ago that she may be involved in the case but otherwise “appears to be a normal 18-year-old young woman.”
Sheriff Williams declined to identify Kamiyah by the identity under which she has been living for so many years, out of respect for her privacy.
“She’s going to need time and assistance to process all of this,” he said.
He said Kamiyah’s biological parents were overjoyed at the news of her discovery: Her mother was “elated.”
He stressed that many questions remain in the case and that the investigation is in its early stages. “A case like this we have not seen in this country in a long time,” he said.
It was not immediately clear if Gloria Williams has entered a plea or retained an attorney or if she has been extradited from South Carolina.
|© People. A composite image of what Kamiyah Mobley would have looked like before her abduction as a newborn|
Newborn abducted from hospital found alive 18 years later, sheriff says
For most of her life, the young woman born Kamiyah Mobley has lived under another name.
A neighbor in Walterboro, South Carolina, described her as a typical 18-year-old who resided with the woman she long believed to be her mother.
Mobley and the woman often got their nails done together, according to the neighbor, who asked not to be identified. The teenager graduated from high school and had a steady boyfriend.
But DNA tests this week revealed that Mobley was abducted from a Florida hospital in July 1998 by a woman posing as a nurse, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said Friday. Law enforcement has not released the name she has been living under.
She was found this week in South Carolina, where authorities arrested Gloria Williams, 51.
Williams was charged with kidnapping and interference with custody, authorities said. She allegedly used fraudulent documents to establish a new identity for Mobley.
Williams' neighbor described her as social worker who always provided for her daughter.
Williams is now facing extradition to Florida, where on a summer day nearly two decades ago she allegedly posed as a nurse and abducted an 8-pound baby girl wrapped in a pink and blue blanket.
Investigators are talking to Williams' extended family in hopes of learning more. It's unclear whether Williams has an attorney.
Mobley, meanwhile, attempts to deal with the new revelations of her life. Video showed her weeping and hugging Gloria Williams inside the Colleton County Detention Center in Walterboro.
The Jacksonville sheriff said the young woman "had an inclination beginning a couple of months ago" that she may have been abducted.
"She's taking it as well as you can imagine," he said. "She has a lot to process. She has a lot to think about."
Mobley was located after a series of tips late last year to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, according to the sheriff. The FBI assisted in the investigation.
"I don't know what she is going through, but I feel for her," the South Carolina neighbor said of Mobley.
In Jacksonville, about 175 miles south of where Mobley was found, her biological parents and grandmother were "extremely excited and overwhelmed with emotion" at the news, the sheriff said.
Mobley seems to be in good health, he said.
'Please bring my baby back'
On July 10, 1998 -- the day Mobley disappeared -- a kidnapper dressed as a nurse and, wearing a blue smock with flowers and surgical gloves, was captured in grainy surveillance video at the hospital.
Mobley's mother, Shanara, who was 16 at the time, told investigators that a woman dressed as a nurse entered her hospital room.
"The suspect remained in the room with the victim and continued helping her and talking with her," said the incident report filed with the sheriff's office.
The mother asked the woman to place her daughter in a baby carrier but she instead left the room with the child, according to the report.
Shanara Mobley believed the woman was a hospital employee, CNN affiliate WJXT-TV in Jacksonville reported. Hospital staff believed the woman was a relative of the Mobleys.
"Please bring my baby back," Shanara Mobley cried during an interview with WJXT at the time. "If you were faking a pregnancy or you just can't have no kids, how do you think I feel... That's my first child."
Sitting in a room with an empty bassinet and unopened baby toys, the mother added, "That would be the happiest thing in the world for me ... to hold my baby and know she's not going nowhere else."
Tips rolled in over the years
The abduction made national headlines. Authorities searched the hospital and surrounding areas. Helicopters were brought in and roadblocks were set up. Hospitals in Jacksonville and beyond increased security in maternity wards, WJXT reported.
Shanara Mobley was awarded $1.5 million after settling a lawsuit against the former University Medical Center, the station reported. She has since had three other children.
Over the years, authorities received more than 2,500 tips in connection with the case. A sample of Mobley's DNA taken at the time of her birth was matched Thursday with a swab taken from the young woman earlier this week.
On Friday, investigators were calling retired detectives who worked on the case with word of the latest development.
"This is a case like we have not seen in this country in a long time," the sheriff said.
So far, there is no word about a possible reunion between Mobley and her biological mother.
"It's up to Kamiyah," Sheriff Williams said. "She's an adult."
Baby kidnapped from Florida hospital found safe 18 years later
A woman who was taken as a baby from a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1998 has been found safe, Florida authorities said on Friday, and the South Carolina woman she believed to be her mother has been arrested for kidnapping.
Kamiyah Mobley, now 18, was located in Walterboro, South Carolina, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, which confirmed her identity through DNA testing.
She appeared to be in good health and "a normal 18-year-old woman," Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said at a news conference.
"This young woman was abducted as a newborn, and she is going to need time and assistance to process all this," Williams said. "She is taking it as well as you can imagine."
The woman's biological family was overwhelmed when they learned the news. It will be up to the victim to determine future contact, he said.
Authorities found Mobley through tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She was living under a different name established through fraudulent documents, the sheriff said, declining to release that name.
"She had an inclination beginning probably a couple of months ago that she may have been involved in this in some way," the sheriff said.
The baby was only hours old when a woman, dressed as a nurse in a flowered smock and green hospital pants, abducted her from her mother's room, according to the 1998 incident report.
Authorities have arrested Gloria Williams, 51, in South Carolina on charges of kidnapping and interference with custody, the sheriff said.
The case generated wide attention and led authorities to pursue more than 2,500 tips, the sheriff said.
"We are speaking to as many people as we can to try to paint a picture of what may have happened 18 years ago," the sheriff said. "Lots of questions left unanswered."
Gloria Williams will be extradited to Florida, authorities said, and she faces up to life in prison.