Kidnapped Baby Found at Fort Bragg, Biological Mom in Jail
Posted July 22, 2007 10:43 a.m. EDT
Updated July 22, 2007 8:51 p.m. EDT
Fort Bragg, N.C. — An adopted 5-month-old girl allegedly taken at gunpoint by her biological mother in rural Mississippi was found safe Sunday at Fort Bragg.
The woman and her sister were in custody and others were sought in what authorities said appeared to be a kidnapping that sprang from a custody fight.
On Saturday, two women and an armed man wearing masks stormed into Jennifer and Matt Erickson's home in Itawamba County, near the Tennessee and Alabama lines, Sheriff Phil Crane said. They tied up Jennifer Erickson with an electrical cord and fled with the baby, Madison Erickson, leaving another young child of Erickson's behind.
Jennifer Erickson was able to free herself and called authorities.
Authorities soon focused on the baby's biological mother, Jamie Kiefer. They contacted military police at Fort Bragg, where Kiefer's sister Rikki Swann lived before returning to Mississippi when her husband deployed to Afghanistan.
Agents and military police searched the area and found a white van with Mississippi plates near the apartment of Amanda Bell, a friend of Swann's. After obtaining warrants, they raided the home to find Madison, Kiefer, Swann, Bell and her child, Kiefer's 5-year-old son, and two children of Swann's, ages 6 and 1.
The sisters were arrested. Authorities allege that Kiefer took part in the kidnapping and that Swann helped her afterward. Authorities are still looking for a man and a woman they say participated in the abduction.
Madison was examined at Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg and turned over to child welfare workers while the Ericksons traveled from Mississippi to North Carolina to retrieve the girl.
"Apparently (the kidnapping) was related to the adoption of the baby," FBI agent Jason Pack said. "Apparently Ms. Kiefer had changed her mind about the adoption."
The Ericksons have had the baby for most of her life, but the adoption was being disputed, Crane said.
"I think this had been in court not too long ago," Crane said. "So this was an ongoing situation."
The Ericksons were unavailable for comment. Crane gave details of the kidnapping and arrest during an afternoon news conference and said he knows little about the adoption.
Bell, who is not accused of wrongdoing, said that Swann had called her late Saturday to ask to visit, but that she didn't know Kiefer and Madison were in her home until agents and military police arrived.
Swann was "hysterical" when she called, saying she had been on vacation in Atlanta and had heard about the kidnapping, Bell said.
"She said I was the only person she knew over here (in the eastern U.S.), and I said, 'Fine,'" Bell said. "We're best friends."
Bell has known Swann since October when their husbands, who are deployed in the same unit, introduced them. She doesn't believe Swann could have participated in the kidnapping.
"I know Rikki, and that woman could not do anything like that," Bell said. "She's like 5-2 and she's a puppy."
Bell was caring for Swann's children Sunday while Swann and Kiefer's parents traveled from Mississippi to Fort Bragg. Kiefer's older child was turned over to the Department of Social Services.
Kiefer and Swann were to be transferred to the Cumberland County jail Sunday to await extradition to Mississippi. Pack said they could face federal kidnapping and related charges in either Mississippi or North Carolina. He didn't expect them to make an initial court appearance until early this week.
The women are from Belmont, Miss., a town of about 2,000 in Tishomingo County, Pack said. He did not have Kiefer and Swann's ages but said both are in their 20s.