Unfathomable: Mother Who Kidnapped Newborn From Hospital Sentenced Today – 23 Years Later (Updated)

By  | 

carlina whiteUPDATE: Ann Pettway has been sentenced to 12 years in prison. “I would like to apologize to the family,” Pettway said during her sentencing. “I am deeply sorry for what I’ve done. If they don’t accept it, it’s understandable. I’m here today to right my wrong and ask for forgiveness.”

So here’s a story I knew nothing about until early this morning, and I have since become obsessed. It’s about Ann Pettway, a 51-year-old woman who kidnapped a newborn baby from a New York City hospital more than two decades ago and went on to raise her as her own. During the 1987 kidnapping, Pettway traveled from her Connecticut home to the Harlem hospital, where she snatched up 3-week-old Carlina White (her parents had brought her to the emergency room that day). What’s especially chilling is that Carlina’s birth mother, Joy White, said Pettway approached her that day, dressed like a nurse, and said, “Don’t cry. Your daughter is going to be okay.”

Now, more than two decades later, Pettway faces sentencing for her hideous crime. (It’s scheduled for 2:30 p.m. today.) Amazingly, it was Carlina who solved the case herself. Pettway had told Carlina she’d been given away by a drug addict, but as she grew she began to get suspicious of her identity. Eventually, Carlina browsed the website of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and ended up matching a photo of herself with the one on the site. (Can you imagine?) Thankfully, she was able to track down her birth mother and they reunited in January 2011 (a DNA test confirmed their relationship). They now speak every day.

In case you weren’t already sobbing, Joy White says she kept a picture of her missing baby at her bedside for 23 years. During Pettway’s plea in February, she said, “I’ve lost 23 years of being with my daughter” – years that were filled with pain and heartache. I think it’s impossible for any of us to understand the emotional toll involved, not just for Joy but for Carlina, too. Thank god there’s a happy ending, relatively speaking, but the whole thing is just unfathomable.

During today’s sentencing, the judge will decide Pettway’s fate; during her plea bargain, prosecutors recommended between 10 and 12.5 years in prison. That doesn’t sound like a lot to me but at the same time, I wonder how Carlina feels and if she wants to see this woman behind bars altogether. Again, it would be impossible for any of us to even imagine how Carlina feels about Pettway and how she must have felt the moment she found her photo on the missing and exploited children website. It’s all so chilling. Needless to say, we’ll be tuning in this afternoon to see what the judge decides.

(Photo: Julie Phipps/Shutterstock)