JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The woman accused of kidnapping a newborn from a Jacksonville hospital 20 years ago and raising the girl as her own pleaded guilty Monday morning to charges of kidnapping and interference with custody.
In exchange for pleading guilty, Gloria Williams is asking for a sentence of between zero and 22 years on the kidnapping charge and zero to five years or less on the interference charge. She will be able to serve both sentences at the same time.
Williams answered Circuit Judge Marianne Aho’s questions with mostly one-word, "yes" or "no" answers. She told the judge that she was pleading guilty in the case because she is guilty and had not been promised anything from anyone in exchange for the plea.
Williams will remain in the Duval County jail for nearly three more months before learning her sentence.
Assistant State Attorney Alan Mizrahi said the plea agreement had been in the works for a while and both sides had agreed on it before Monday's hearing. He read the judge the facts of the case before the judge accepted the plea of guilty.
"The proof really amounted to DNA evidence and some admissions. There wasn’t really much more to it than that. It would be a lot for anyone to go through, and we have gone through it," Mizrahi said. "The defendant felt it was in her best interest to plead guilty, as did the state of Florida."
Williams is accused of posing as an employee of what at the time was University Hospital -- now UF Health Jacksonville -- and walking out with a baby named Kamiyah Mobley. Just over a year ago, two tips led Jacksonville police to the teenager Williams raised in South Carolina as Alexis Manigo, and tests matched her DNA with that of the kidnapped baby. That led to Williams' arrest.
If Williams were to be convicted at trial, she could have faced a maximum of life in prison, but in an interview with a South Carolina newspaper, Manigo said she was hoping the woman who raised her would face less than 10 years in prison.
The judge set a sentencing hearing for the first week of May. Mizrahi said he expects Manigo and her birth parents, Shanara Mobley and Craig Aiken, will testify at the sentencing hearing.
Attorneys in this case told News4Jax that the wishes of Manigo and her birth parents could play a role in the terms of Williams' plea agreement. The girl's biological parents have stayed away from the court proceedings, saying they only want to focus on building a long-denied relationship with their daughter.
"They certainly know everything. It’s our legal obligation to inform them along the entire process, and they want to resolution quickly," Mizrahi said. "I think they understood and were accepting of the resolution."
Rhonda Peoples-Waters, a local defense attorney not affiliated with the case, said a plea deal is legally Williams' best play.
"The options are to plead directly to the court, which would expose Ms. Williams from several years in prison to 30 years in prison; or a plea deal from the state, which may limit that exposure and maybe it will be a range of several years in prison up to 15 or 20 years in prison," Peoples-Waters said.
Peoples-Waters said Williams' defense attorney's primary argument will be that she was a good mother and developed a strong bond with the girl she raised as Alexis Manigo.
In the only case News4Jax has found with similar circumstances, a 19-day-old baby, born Carlina White, was taken from a New York hospital by a woman posing as a nurse. The girl was raised as Netty Nance, but eventually discovered her real identity in her 20s when she tried to get health insurance while pregnant. The kidnapper in that case pleaded guilty in 2012 to a federal kidnapping charge and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.