Mom talks about attempted baby-napping

May 7, 2010 4:13:49 AM PDT
It was an alleged crime that sent chills up the spines of parents across the Triangle. A woman is accused of trying to snatch a baby from the nursery at Duke Hospital.

Now, the baby's mother has spoken exclusively with ABC11's Tamara Gibbs. Ashley asked that we not give out her full name or show her face.

"I get worried. I think that's probably why I don't like to keep my daughter in her crib. I like to keep her next to me," Ashley told ABC11.

She's still stunned by what happened the day after the happiest day of her life.

"It was a lot of stuff going on at once and it just didn't hit me that something's not right," she recalled.

Something was definitely not right on April 19.

Ashley was a typical sleep-deprived new mom and there were lots of nurses and techs coming and going from her room in the maternity ward at Duke Hospital when she got a surprise phone call saying she'd won a "new mother" lunch. A few minutes later, she says a woman - later identified as Tanisha Weaver - showed up at her door with balloons and told her to go down to the cafeteria and look for a chair with more balloons. There, she was to wait for the rest of her "special prize."

"She gave me a gift card with receipt for $12 dollars to spend. I did ask questions like 'Who am I meeting?' She couldn't tell me," said Ashley.

She says Weaver urged her to go and offered to stay and watch her day-old daughter. Not wanting to be impolite - and thinking Weaver was some sort of hospital staffer - Ashley went downstairs and waited but no one showed up. So, she went back upstairs and noticed a commotion outside her room where she'd left her daughter.

"When the police officer showed me the ankle bracelet, that's when I broke down," said Ashley. "I just broke down. I was like 'Oh, is she okay? Is she okay?'"

She was okay thanks to security measures in the maternity ward. Police say when Weaver cut the ankle bracelet off the baby, it triggered an electronic alarm system. They arrested Weaver, seized a bag full of baby clothes, and charged her with felony abduction of a child.

Experts say baby-nappings are extremely unusual.

"They're very rare. We're talking about 10 cases in the entire country a year on average," explained forensic psychiatrist Dr. Nicole Wolfe.

Wolfe says there've only been a little more than 200 infant abductions in the U.S. in the last 25 years.

They're rare, but this is not a first for North Carolina. Back in 1988, an infant boy was taken from High Point Regional Hospital and returned safely. The case sparked national awareness and the high-tech security we see in maternity wards today - the kind of security Ashley says saved her baby.

"Their system worked. They were right on it," she said. "If this could happen at Duke, it could happen at any hospital."

And the culprit - according to Dr. Wolfe - could be anyone. Wolfe is not affiliated with Weaver's case, but says U.S. infant abductors are typically women.

"Sometimes a woman can't have a baby. Sometimes, she's so desperate to maintain a relationship that she'll lie about her ability to have a baby," Wolfe explained.

Weaver's motive is unclear. Investigators will only say it wasn't money as she originally claimed.

Relatives told ABC11 she has an 8-year-old son, but we found a stroller box on her porch. Neighbors said Weaver faked labor pains.

And even more disturbing is that just weeks before, Weaver may already have been on a path of destruction. She's accused of luring a pregnant woman to a Louisburg parking lot by posting an online ad for maternity calendar models. The victim says Weaver pulled a knife on her.

Weaver made bond, and a week later, was caught on surveillance tape casing Maria Parham Hospital in Henderson posing as a nurse.

But no charges were filed and Weaver went free - until that day at Duke Hospital where - for whatever reason - she chose Ashley's baby.

"I'd ask her why. Just like for her sake and her family's sake, she needs help and I hope that she does get help," said Ashley. "There's a reason why she did what she did."

Ashley said along with the explanation, she'd also like an apology from Weaver.

Police say Weaver confessed when she was confronted at the hospital. She could be looking at life in prison. ABC11 has learned she's been meeting with a jail psychologist, but it's not clear if that will play into her defense.

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