Teen began to suspect birth status when she applied for jobs
Kamiyah Mobley kidnapped from Jacksonville hospital as newborn in 1998
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The girl who had known herself as Alexis Manigo for all of her 18 years began to suspect something was wrong earlier last summer when prospective employers said both her birth certificate and Social Security card were fraudulent.
Investigators in Jacksonville had been searching for Kamiyah Mobley since July 10, 1998, when the hours-old girl was taken from the maternity ward at what was then called University Medical Center by a woman dressed like a nurse. Three months ago, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children passed a tip to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office that the girl may be living in Walterboro, South Carolina.
"As she became an 18-year-old young woman and went to look for jobs and do different things, that began to raise questions, I’m sure," Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said. "We’re not sure how much detail she knew or how much she knew or how much she was told, but we believe there was some conversation at some point with some explanation about why her birth documents were fraudulent."
One week ago, police got a DNA swab from the teenager. Thursday night, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement let police know it was a match for Kamiyah.
Sheriff Williams was there as the birth parents and their extended families were told Kamiyah as alive and well.
"It was an incredible experience. We asked them to come down and said we had tips that we wanted to follow up with them and had some information for them. Of course, they all came. The father, the mother, the grandmother and a couple other family members were there," the sheriff said. "They were, as you could imagine, elated and overjoyed and excited and they had a million questions and many of those we couldn’t answer. We had advocates in the room to help with that process. We had victim advocates up in South Carolina as well to be there with Kamiyah when she got the message. From there, we let them work out the details."
The birth parents traveled to Walterboro, 50 miles west of Charleston, on Saturday to meet Kamiyah. The girl's birth father, Craig Aiken, said it couldn't have gone better.
"The first meeting was beautiful. It was wonderful," Aiken said. "It's hard to put into words right now. We are just trying to process it -- 18 years. It's going to be hard to make that up. I just can't describe it."
Gloria Williams, 51, who raised Kamiyah as her own, was arrested Friday on charges of kidnapping and interference with custody. She has waived extradition, but remains in a South Carolina jail waiting to be transferred to Jacksonville for prosecution.
Sheriff Williams believe she'll be brought to Jacksonville this week or next.
"To take the tips we've gotten over the years and be able to take these last tips and, with the information we had from 18 years ago, build something into a case," he said. "Great work 18 years ago. Great work today."
For years, Kamiyah's neighbors in Walterboro knew her as Gloria Williams' daughter.
"She wasn't an abused child or a child who got in trouble. But she grew up with a lie for 18 years," said Joseph Jenkins, who lives across the street.
Aiken said it's not yet clear what's next for his family, and it will be up to Kamiyah to decide if she will visit Jacksonville. He said he would tell other parents with missing children to keep hope alive.
"Just keep praying, keep fighting, if it happened to me, it can happen to anybody," he said.
Sheriff Williams is aware that solving this cold-case has disrupted the life of a young girl and everyone she knows, but the truth needed to come out.
“One of the victims in this case is the birth family and they deserve this. It's not a perfect situation by any stretch, but it's one that clearly had to be resolved," he said.
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