National News

Raleigh woman linked to 1987 baby kidnapping

Posted January 19, 2011 7:33 p.m. EST
Updated January 20, 2011 9:49 p.m. EST

— A woman who was kidnapped as an infant 23 years ago says finding her real mother "felt like a dream."

"I'm so happy. At the same time, it's a funny feeling because everything's brand new. It's like being born again," said the woman, who was named Carlina White by her parents but was raised in Connecticut under the name Nejdra Nance.

The 19-day-old baby Carlina was kidnapped in 1987 after her worried parents took her to Harlem Hospital with a fever.

No suspect was ever arrested.

Police said they think a Raleigh woman, Ann Pettway, is the kidnapper.

Pettway, 44, is on probation in Wake County for a 2010 embezzlement case. She's known to go by several other names, police said

Investigators said there is no statute of limitations on kidnapping a child, but no charges have been filed in the case yet.

Pettway couldn't be reached Thursday for comment.

Sonova Smith, a friend and neighbor of Pettway, told WRAL News on Thursday that she was having a hard time believing that her friend kidnapped a baby more than two decades ago. 

"She's a good person," Smith said. "She is seeking everything that's good for her son, for her. She came her to do better, looking for a job. It really surprised me to even hear those allegations against her." 

Smith last saw Pettway on Friday and spoke with her by phone on Sunday. 

Carlina's distraught parents, Joy White and Carl Tyson, feared they would never see their daughter again.

Carlina, or Nejdra, was raised by an abusive drug addict, she told the New York Post. She said she had long suspected that she wasn't the woman's real daughter.

When she got pregnant herself at 16, she asked her putative mother for a birth certificate so she could get prenatal care. Her mother could not provide one.

She gave birth to a daughter who is now 6, and when she recently moved on her own to Atlanta, Ga., she decided to seek out her birth parents.

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children helped her connect the dots. Then the center contacted Joy White

"We may have found your daughter," Joy White said the caller told her.

DNA tests confirmed that Nejdra was in fact Carlina.

Mother and daughter were reunited on Saturday; they were in a Manhattan hotel on Thursday. The Post interviewed them at the hotel on Wednesday.

"I'm sitting here and I'm in a daze, thinking, 'Is this for real?' I missed the last 23 years of her life. I have to take it all in, for now just take it day by day," Joy White told the newspaper.

Carlina White said, "I just never gave up on finding my real mother. I just kept on pushing."