JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- A baby girl kidnapped from a Jacksonville hospital hours after her birth has been found alive and well, 18 years later, in South Carolina.
The case of missing baby Kamiyah Mobley captivated the city and drew national attention in 1998 after she was kidnapped from University Medical Center, now UF Health-Jacksonville, just eight hours after she was born.
On Friday, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested the suspect, Gloria Williams, 51, in Walterboro, S.C., about four hours north of Jacksonville. Police say Williams allegedly took Kamiyah and raised her as her own daughter under a different name that they didn’t release.
“She was abducted as a newborn and needs time to process this… we want to respect her privacy and we ask that you do too,” Sheriff Mike Williams said at a press conference Friday.
On July 10, 1998, a woman posed as a nurse and entered Kamiyah’s mother, Shanara Mobley’s hospital room. She told Mobley that Kamiyah had a fever and it needed to be checked. The woman then left the room and exited the hospital with the child. They both disappeared without a trace.
An intense investigation was launched after Kamiyah disappeared. Nurses told authorities that they thought the woman was a family member of Mobley’s. They said they saw her interact with Mobley just hours before the abduction.
Police searched every inch of the hospital. The FBI and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) were also called to assist.
Surveillance video proved too grainy to identify the kidnapper and the camera in the nursery was broken, so law enforcement circulated a sketch of the suspect. There were also no photos of baby Kamiyah, so investigators told the public to look for a baby with an umbilical hernia, like a raised belly button, and bruising on her buttocks.
After Kamiyah went missing, JSO said authorities had more than 2,500 leads. They offered a $250,000 reward and the case was also featured on America’s Most Wanted. But, all leads ran dry.
Mobley sued the hospital and later got a $1.5 million settlement.
It wasn’t until late 2015 when local authorities received two tips that led them to South Carolina. JSO Cold Case detectives teamed up with the Walterboro Police Department and managed to locate an 18-year-old girl with the same birth date, but different name. They also discovered fake documents had been used to establish the girl’s identity. Police interviewed several people in the area, who helped create more suspicion that the teen was Kamiyah.
JSO managed to obtain a DNA sample from the teen earlier this week and submitted it to the FDLE Crime Lab for testing. They received the results Thursday night and discovered that it was a match to Kamiyah’s DNA taken shortly after she was born.
Police arrested Gloria Williams at her Walterboro home Friday morning. She’s facing kidnapping charges, a first-degree felony punishable by life, and interference with custody charges.
She had a court appearance in South Carolina late Friday afternoon, but the judge didn’t set a bond. Police say she is going to be extradited to Jacksonville where a bond will be set by a local judge.
Kamiyah was also in the court room and told Williams she was “praying for her” and that she “loved her.”
Crime Scene Units remained on-scene at Williams’ residence hours after her arrest.
After the arrest, JSO contacted Kamiyah’s mother, father, grandmother and close family friends and shared the news.
“They were elated… they were overwhelmed with emotion,” Sheriff Williams said.
JSO said Kamiyah is in good health. She grew up thinking Williams was her mother, but she “had an inclination she was involved in this (kidnapping) in some way months ago.”
“She has a lot to process, a lot to think about,” Sheriff Williams said. “I can’t begin to comprehend it.”
At this time, police said Kamiyah plans on staying in South Carolina. They do not know if she plans to reconnect with her biological family any time soon.
“The ability is there for that to happen, but they have to make that decision… she has to make that decision” Sheriff Williams said. “I don’t know if that’ll happen. Again, imagine the gravity of that situation.”
Despite an arrest made, this case remains an active and ongoing investigation.