JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – In a prime time interview Wednesday night, an 18-year-old woman who was kidnapped as a newborn from a Jacksonville hospital sent a message to the only woman she's called mom for her entire life.
"I just want to tell my mother, well she knows this, I'm pretty sure my mother knows this -- I lover her to death. Keep your head up and I love you. Hang in there," said Alexis Manigo, who was born Kamiyah Mobley, during an interview with HLN anchor Ashleigh Banfield.
The interview aired just hours after Gloria Williams, the woman accused of taking hours-old Kamiyah Mobley from what was University Medical Center in 1998, made her first appearance before a Duval County judge and was ordered held without bond on a kidnapping charge and $500,000 bond on a charge of interference with custody.
The teenager, who continues to go by Alexis Manigo, said she still loves the only mother she's ever known.
"I still feel the same about her. There is nothing different," Manigo said. "She raised me right."
In the interview, Manigo also talked about crying in a South Carolina detention center when she saw Williams behind bars.
"I just couldn't take that she was in cuffs. She's not an animal. That's all I can say. I don't think that she deserves to be in cuffs," Manigo said.
But it's what Manigo didn't say during the interview that may reveal more about what she really knew concerning her own reported kidnapping.
Anchor: "I wanted to know what your reaction was when you first learned that you in fact had come from another family?"
Manigo: "I don't want to discuss that."
Anchor: "Is it because of the legal implications or is it because of the emotional implications?"
Manigo: "The legal side."
The HLN interview was recorded before news broke that police had proof Williams told Manigo about her true identity.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit, a witness told detectives that "Manigo told her that she had been kidnapped from a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida when she was a baby. Alexis said her mother, Gloria Williams (suspect), told her she was Kamiyah Mobley."
Manigo's first time speaking publicly was on ABC's "Good Morning America" Wednesday morning.
In that interview, Manigo told "Good Morning America" that Williams is the only mother she’s ever known and she forgives her for her crime.
“I was given the best life and everything I ever wanted and needed,” Manigo said. “I had love, especially.”
She said Williams will always be her mother.
“I understand what she did was wrong, but just don't lock her up and throw away the key,” Manigo said. “She loved me for 18 years. She cared for me for 18 years. It did hurt that they had her in cuffs. She's a gentle woman."
Dr. Lynn Wadelton, a psychologist with First Coast Therapy group, said watching the legal process might be difficult for Manigo.
“She has said she wants people to recognize her mother who raised her as a very loving and good person and not just throw the key away, and yet our society takes child kidnapping as such a heinous and horrendous crime that they are going to be pulling probably more for stiffer penalties,” Wadelton said.
Wadelton said Manigo's feelings toward Williams are normal, but that everything is shifting now for the 18-year-old.
“It's very difficult to imagine being 18 years old and how is she going to get into the world, who is going to send her to college, who's going to house her, who is going to clothe her, what's going to happen with all of those aspects of her life?” Wadelton said.
Wadelton said as she processes all the changes, friendships will become invaluable for Manigo.
“This is also an interesting time in any teenager's life in which they're trying to move away from family and more toward independence and friendship rather than toward family,” Wadelton said.
Manigo met Saturday with her birth parents, Craig Aiken and Shanara Mobley, in Walterboro, South Carolina, where she was found earlier this month. Williams was arrested the day after a DNA sample from Kamiyah was matched to Alexis.
"I feel like I do owe (the birth parents) that, to give them a chance, you know, get to know them," Manigo said.
Manigo said she realizes her life would have been different had she not been kidnapped.
"When you find out you've got another family, it gives you more love," she said.
Wadelton said she believes as time goes on, Manigo could strike a balance of emotions for both Williams and her birth family.
“She may be able to be in touch with her anger, as well, and say, 'Wow, I missed out on a life that I didn't have the opportunity to live. I can now understand what my poor biological parents went through,'” Wadelton said.
Manigo was asked about her thoughts on the investigation during the interview, but declined to answer, saying that she didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize Williams' case. She said she will make a statement to the judge in the kidnapping, but most likely not until the sentencing phase of the trial.