JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Many people in Jacksonville vividly remember the details of the all-out, frantic search for newborn Kamiyah Mobley in 1998, including the law enforcement officers assigned to solve the kidnapping.
Those investigators didn't get their answers for another 18 years.
Last week, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office announced that baby Kamiyah had been found in South Carolina, and Gloria Williams, the woman the teen had grown up believing was her mother, had been charged with kidnapping.
Both the FBI and Jacksonville police were among the agencies working together to track the baby down in 1998.
Retired FBI Agent Mike Heard and retired Sgt. Don Schoenfeld, who both worked the case, shared their unforgettable experiences and the emotions they had to suppress to get the job done.
“Throughout an individual's career, there's good cases and bad cases. You don't take many of them home. Kidnapping cases you always took home,” Heard said. “When this one was unsuccessful, it hit home. And for the last 18 years, I've always hoped we'd have a successful outcome.”
Schoenfeld was the supervisor over the team of Jacksonville homicide detectives searching for baby Kamiyah.
He said it was chaotic from the moment he stepped foot at University Medical Center University Medical Center, which later became Shands Jacksonville and then UF Health Jacksonville. Schoenfeld said it took six to eight hours just to search the hospital grounds as they went room by room, floor to floor, building to building as well as looking in the parking garage and lots.
"It was very, very intense. There was a lot of stress. There was a lot of pressure. A lot of it self imposed because we had to find that baby," Schoenfeld said.
Hundreds of leads a day took local detectives nationwide. Schoenfeld remembers one lead that had officers in Connecticut detaining a suspicious person with a baby.
"And they actually gave us, got us a DNA sample. They handed it to a airline pilot, and he handed it to us when he landed in Jacksonville. And we took that DNA sample to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab. And in less than 48 hours, we were determined it was not the child. And of course there was a letdown," Schoenfeld said. "You just keep going. You don't stop. You don't slow down because there are still leads coming in."'
Nearly two decades later, Schoenfeld said he was working in his yard Friday morning when a friend, his former lieutenant, called him.
"He said, 'They found Kamiyah.' And I said, 'Don't mess with me.' And he said, 'No, they found her.' And, probably, several of my neighbors heard me yell, 'What!' I was stunned. And pleased, obviously," Schoenfeld said.
Williams was transferred from South Carolina to Jacksonville on Tuesday to face the kidnapping charges.
Detective Glen Warkentien, who was one of the officers transporting Williams, worked on Schoenfeld's homicide team in 1998. Warkentien now works in the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Cold Case Squad.
Heard, who was a supervisory special agent with the FBI in Jacksonville, worked closely with that Jacksonville police homicide team assigned to the case in 1998.
Heard said he worked a similar case in the Midwest, and he and his team found that baby within hours. But as time went by, Heard said Kamiyah's case always stayed with him, and he thought about it often.
"This case always bothered me because I didn't see it as a hostile abduction case. I saw it more as a, if you want to call it, a profile case. Someone took that baby that either didn't have a child, couldn't have a child or had recently lost a child. And this came from the FBI profilers," Heard said.
After 18 years of wondering, Heard said he was walking off the golf course when he got the call that Kamiyah had been found.
"I am ecstatic. I can now go on and say it was a successful end. I didn't have anything to do with it at this point in time, nothing at all. It just makes you feel good that there is just closure to this, not just for Alexis and for the families, but for all of the people involved in this," Heard said.
Heard said had the newborn's kidnapping happened today, the likelihood of finding her would have been much better.
"We didn't have Amber Alert at that time. There were a lot of things technologically and forensically that we didn't have at that time," he explained.
Though the both men have different stories, each share the same ending: Kamiyah was found alive.