NEW YORK (Reuters) - A woman who abducted a newborn baby from a New York City hospital more than 20 years ago and raised the child as her own was sentenced on Monday to 12 years in prison.
Ann Pettway, 50, pleaded guilty in February to the 1987 kidnapping of Carlina White, then 19 days old, from Harlem Hospital, where her parents brought her to be treated for a fever. White, now 25, was reunited with her family in 2011.
At Pettway’s sentencing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Monday, White’s parents, now estranged, told a packed courtroom that she had robbed them of the joy of raising their child and ruined their lives.
“You hurt me so bad,” White’s 47-year-old father, Carl Tyson, told Pettway as he addressed U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel.
“Our lives will never be the same,” sobbed mother Joy White, who was 16 when her baby disappeared.
Pettway, wearing a dark blue prison jumpsuit, begged forgiveness. Carlina White was not in the courtroom.
“I would like to apologize to the family,” said Pettway, her voice choked with tears. “I am deeply sorry for what I’ve done... but I‘m here today to right my wrong.”
Judge Castel sentenced Pettway 12 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
Castel said Pettway had “inflicted a parent’s worst nightmare on a young couple who was only concerned about the health of their baby.”
Carlina White’s absence is one of the longest non-parental abductions in which a missing child was reunited with family, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
The sentence was part of a plea agreement for Pettway who, her lawyers argued, had a troubled childhood, suffered depression and had trouble bearing her own children. She originally faced a maximum sentence of life in prison.
According to court documents, Pettway had taken a train from her home in Connecticut to the hospital, where she saw Carlina White. Pettway, disguised as a nurse, grabbed the baby and took her to Connecticut, where she raised the girl about 45 miles east of her parents’ home.
White, who was raised as Nejdra Nance, at 16 grew suspicious because Pettway was unable to produce her birth certificate or Social Security number. In 2011, White tracked down her biological parents in New York through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
DNA tests confirmed White was the parents’ missing child. Soon afterward, Pettway turned herself in to authorities.
Tyson, a truck driver, said his daughter is living in Atlanta with a 7-year-old daughter.
Reporting by Lily Kuo; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Cynthia Osterman