(AP) – Stolen hours after her birth in a Florida hospital 18 years ago, a young woman who came to suspect she didn’t belong with the people who raised her has been found in South Carolina, and police charged the woman she long believed was her mother with kidnapping.
Thanks to DNA analysis, the young woman now knows her birth name: Kamiyah Mobley.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said Friday at a news conference that she’s is in good health, but understandably overwhelmed.
Police arrested Gloria Williams, 51, of Walterboro, South Carolina, at the home where Mobley was raised, and charged her with kidnapping and interference with custody.
In Jacksonville, the young woman’s birth family cried “tears of joy” after a detective told them their baby had been found. Within hours Friday, they were able to reconnect by video chat.
“She looks just like her daddy,” her paternal grandmother, Velma Aiken of Jacksonville, told The Associated Press after they were able to see each other for the first time, on FaceTime. “She act like she been talking to us all the time. She told us she’d be here soon to see us.”
Mobley was only eight hours old when she was taken from her young mother by a woman posing as a nurse at University Medical Center in 1998. A massive search ensued, with helicopters circling the hospital and the city on high alert, and thousands of tips came in over the years, but authorities apparently had no clue where she was.
All that time, police said, she was being raised under a different name in Walterboro. Then, some months ago, the young woman “had an inclination” that she may have been kidnapped, the sheriff said.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reached out to the cold case detectives at the sheriff’s office, and Mobley provided a swab of her cheek for DNA analysis that proved the match, the sheriff said.
Even after all this time, the family never forgot the little girl ripped from her mother’s arms that day.
Her mother, Shanara Mobley, told the Florida Times-Union newspaper on the 10th Anniversary of the kidnapping that on every one of Kamiyah’s birthdays, she wrapped a piece of birthday cake in foil, and stuck it in her freezer.
“It’s stressful to wake up every day, knowing that your child is out there and you have no way to reach her or talk to her,” Mobley told the paper in 2008.
The sheriff said Kamiyah is being provided with counseling.
“She’s taking it as well as you can imagine. She has a lot to process,” the sheriff said. “I can’t even begin to comprehend it.”
As the young woman and her rediscovered family work toward a new relationship, Aiken said she’s thrilled that they’ll now be able to speak with each other as much as they want.
“I always prayed, ‘Don’t let me die before I see my grand baby’,” said Aiken. “My prayer was answered.”