Local News

Prosecutor: Accused baby-napper made earlier attempt

Posted April 21, 2010 11:05 a.m. EDT
Updated April 22, 2010 9:47 a.m. EDT

— A woman accused of trying to abduct an infant from a Duke University Hospital nursery planned a similar crime in Henderson, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Tanisha Weaver, 28, of 18 Shannon Road in Louisburg, is charged with abduction of children. District Judge Brian Wilks raised her bond from $20,000 to $100,000 because of the new allegations against her.

Duke Hospital officials said a woman tried to take a newborn Monday afternoon from the hospital's North Ancillary, at 2301 Erwin Road. Hospital staff recognized that the woman wasn't authorized to take the child, called police and detained her until investigators arrived, officials said.

The baby and her mother were fine, officials said.

”This was not a situation where we are talking about a parental abduction,” Assistant Durham County District Attorney Jim Dornfried said in court Wednesday. ”We really believe that this a situation of a child being stolen.”

As part of an elaborate ruse to get the mother out of the hospital room, Dornfried said, Weaver bought balloons and a gift card from the hospital gift shop, then told the mother that she would stay with the infant while the mother attended a special luncheon in the hospital cafeteria.

After the mother left, the baby's ankle bracelet was cut off, triggering an alarm and prompting nurses to detain Weaver, the prosecutor said. She was carrying a bag containing a change of clothes for a newborn girl, he said.

Weaver gave conflicting information to police about why she was in the hospital and had taken the baby, Dornfried said, and officers found a text message on her phone from earlier in the day that said, "Can't wait to see you and the baby tonight."

Dornfried said Weaver last week surveyed Parham Medical Center in Henderson in an effort to steal a child. He said hospital security officials contacted investigators Tuesday after seeing media reports of Weaver's arrest to report that she had donned surgical scrubs at that hospital and tried to pass herself off as a nursing student.

"She was asking questions about security, where the exits were located and ways to the maternity ward,” Dornfried said.

Maria Parham spokesman David Ruggles said the woman's suspicious behavior last Saturday attracted the attention of hospital security, prompting her to leave. Security video shows her leaving with two unidentified people, he said.

"At no time was an infant or mother ... ever confronted or touched by Ms. Weaver during this incident," Ruggles said in a statement.

Weaver’s neighbor Kawana Jones said for several months, Weaver pretended to be pregnant. Jones said her children saw baby clothes, bottles and even a stroller inside of Weaver’s home.

"I asked her when the baby was due and she said April 17," Jones said.

Last Friday, Weaver asked Jones to babysit her little boy because she said she was going into the hospital to have a baby.

Jones said when Weaver showed up the next day without a baby, she felt something wasn't right.

"She said, 'Well, I signed myself out,'" Jones said. "And I got to thinking, you signed yourself out?"

She said Weaver told her the baby was in intensive care with some type of respiratory problem, but would be released Monday.

Jones said Weaver even showed them pictures of a baby and acted as if she were suffering pain from giving birth.

Jones said on Monday, Weaver asked her to take her to Duke Hospital. Jones says she came up with an excuse not to give Weaver a ride because she felt something wasn't right.

Now, Jones said she is relieved she followed her instincts.

Jones said she especially feels for Weaver's son, who came home from school Monday to an empty house.

Duke University spokesman Keith Lawrence said the Monday incident at the Durham hospital remains under investigation, and no one else has been charged yet.

Dornfried said Weaver finally indicated to Duke investigators that she was trying to get a baby because she owed someone money.

"This is a stranger shopping for a child,” he said. "This is a baby to steal for profit or to satisfy a debt.”

A public defender who represented Weaver during the court hearing Wednesday asked Wilks to keep Weaver's bond at $20,000, saying she has no criminal record and needed to get out of jail to care for a sick child at home.

Weaver's uncle Anthony Q. Alston Sr., said his niece moved to Louisburg two months ago from New Jersey.