Joy White and Carl Tyson, parents of Carlina White, the infant stolen from Harlem Hospital when she was 19-days-old in 1987, sat in stunned disbelief as a Manhattan federal judge allowed kidnapper Ann Pettway, 51, to escape the mandatory 20-year minimum sentence after copping a 10-year plea deal, reports the New York Post.
After snatching Carlina from the hospital, Pettway convinced her family in Bridgeport, Connecticut that she gave birth to the baby before moving to Atlanta and raising the girl as her own for 23 years.
Carlina’s parents said that the sentence was a miscarriage of justice and that Pettway knew that she got off easy:
“She can’t even look me in the f—king eye,” a furious Tyson said as the baby-snatcher left the courtroom.
White said that Pettway should serve at least as much time as their daughter had been missing before she tracked them down last year:
“I think she should serve at least 23 years, just like my daughter was missing 23 years,” she said.
The distraught mother said that she’ll “never forget” Pettway comforting her in the hospital when she bought baby Carlina in with a raging fever:
“She came up to me and said, ‘Don’t cry. Your baby is going to be OK,’ ” White said outside the Manhattan federal court. “And she patted me on my shoulder . . . and she preyed on me. She is so mean. She is so cruel.”
Tyson described himself as so “pissed right about now” as he angrily left the courtroom:
“It wasn’t what I expected,” he said. “Give her 23 years and you’ll make me happy.”
White wiped tears from her eyes as Pettway flatly described how she had stolen her baby from Harlem Hospital after a short train ride from Bridgeport, Connecticut:
“I went to Harlem Hospital. I took a child. I left. I got back on the train. I went back home and raised her as my child,” she said. “I knew it was wrong.”
She may have gotten away with her crimes if Carlina had not become pregnant in January 2011. She went directly to her “mother” and asked for a copy of her birth certificate so that she could apply for pre-natal care. Pettway ducked and dodged, before finally telling Carlina, who was living with the name “Nejdra Nance,” that her mother was a drug addict who had given her away so there was no birth certificate.
Carlina’s dormant suspicion that Pettway was not her mother was sparked to extreme levels. Arrested six times for robbery, theft, marijuana possession and attempted embezzlement, Pettway never fostered a healthy relationship with her “daughter,” but Carlina’s biggest concern was that she and Pettway looked nothing alike, reports the Daily Mail.
She began to do some sleuthing on her own and and found an infant picture of herself on a website that specialized in reuniting abducted children with their families. After reaching out to the organization, they conducted DNA tests and told Carlina that her real parents were Joy and Carl Tyson, who had by that time had been separated for years.
What should have been the beginning of a “Happily Ever After” quickly turned sour after Carlina became aware of the settlement awarded to her parents after her disappearance. The devastated couple sued Harlem Hospital and settled with the city for $750,000 in 1992. According to the Post, each parent received $163,000 and half was put into a trust for Carlina. Their attorney at the time, Richard Wertis, was found guilty of stealing $6000 from the fund and was later disbarred for his crime.
White and Tyson spent the money that had been placed in trust for Carlina after her 21st birthday passed and she remained missing. Suffice it say, their daughter was not a happy camper. A rift exploded within the still fragile family that culminated with Carlina flying back to Atlanta.
“We don’t have the money,” White said. “We both had to live. … At the time things was really rocky with me, as far as a living situation. And I have two other kids, a son and a daughter … and I had to take care of myself,” she said on NBC’s Today Show. The situation got even more tumultuous when Carlina began to ask about a $10,000 reward that was offered for her return and she refused to make any appearances or statements without getting paid for her time.
Still, White says that everything is fine now and that she speaks with her daughter every day:
“She called me yesterday and said: ‘Mommy, you’re my Valentine,’ ” White said.
Unfortunately, Tyson feels differently:
“I don’t have no relationship with my daughter,” he said. “[Pettway] doesn’t know what she’s done to me.”
Tyson and White both said that they explicitly told prosecutors that a plea-deal was not an option and the decision to move forward despite their express wishes was like a slap in the face.
“I’m the victim here,” White said.
A spokeswoman for Manhattan US Attorney, Preet Bharara, issued a statement that completely ignored Carlina’s parents’ concerns and justified indignation over the prosecution’s lack of concern:
“The parents of Carlina White had their lives shattered when their baby girl was stolen from them. With today’s guilty plea, Ann Pettway will be punished for her egregious crime and this family can begin to piece together this part of their lives.”
Pettway will be sentenced May 17.