The woman who admitted to taking a newborn baby from a Jacksonville hospital 20 years ago was sentenced Friday to 18 years in prison for kidnapping and five years on a second charge of interference with child custody.
Gloria Williams pleaded guilty earlier this year to posing as a hospital employee on July 10, 1998, taking 8-pound 2-ounce Kamiyah Mobley from her mother's arms, walking out of the hospital and driving to South Carolina.
"There are no winners and no losers in this case. It's a very sad case, and many people have suffered, including Ms. Williams," Circuit Judge Marianne Aho said just before announcing the sentence. "The family in this case suffered not knowing what happened to their child for approximately 18 years."
Aho said Williams will receive credit for the 511 days she has been held in jail since her arrest and that the sentence would be served concurrently, so her total time in prison would just under 17 years. Aho also ordered that Williams was not to profit in any way from the crime.
Williams, who showed little emotion as the sentence was read, was given 30 days to file an appeal on the sentencing, although she cannot appeal her guilty plea.
Prosecutors were satisfied with the length of the sentence handed down to Williams.
"Their punishment didn't really have a joy to it," Assistant State Attorney Alan Mizrahi said after the hearing. "The happiness came from announcing to this family that we had found their daughter."
Mizrahi said it was rare having a victim who wasn’t truly angry at the defendant.
In a brief statement, Craig Aiken, Kamiyah's biological father, said he wanted to thank God, the investigators, prosecutors, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the community.
"I believe now that this is over, we can continue on our journey of healing together as a family and support our daughter on her decision-making," Aiken said.
News4Jax legal analyst Rhonda Peoples-Waters said the judge chose a sentence of 18 years not only because that's how much time Kamiyah's biological family was separated from their daughter, but because that's also how much time Williams had to bring her back.
"It's important to remember the state negotiated the range of zero to 22 years. It could have been more than that," Peoples-Waters said.
18-year secret unravels
Williams named the child Alexis Manigo and raised her as her daughter. During last month's sentencing hearing, Williams said she didn't tell the girl her true identity until she discovered she couldn't get a driver's license because she didn't have a valid birth certificate or Social Security card.
Williams admitted she took the baby from the hospital at a time when her life was spiraling out of control. Williams said she was coping with depression and an abusive relationship.
She also apologized to Kamiyah and the girl's biological parents. She said if she could go back in time, she would not have taken the baby.
"I know I wronged you and I'm so sorry, and so many days, so many days, so many days I just wanted to pick that child up and say, 'Get in the car. Let's go.' I just couldn't," Williams said.
Shanara Mobley was very emotional during her testimony. She shared how the kidnapping impacted her. She was suicidal and is still hurting years later.
“I'm still hurting when you're reaching out to my child. This is my child. I am your mother Kamiyah! I am your mother,” cried Mobley.
Mobley wants Gloria Williams to spend a long time behind bars. In order to build a relationship with her child, Mobley wants to make sure Williams won't be close by.
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Mobley could have faced up to life in prison for first-degree kidnapping, but prosecutors agreed to a 22-year maximum sentenced in her plea agreement.
In her sentencing statement, Aho wrote that "no violence was associated with Miss Mobley’s kidnapping and, although the court is sympathetic that to a victim’s family, any kidnapping is especially cruel."
Aho went to to outline why she did not pursue a lengthier sentence.
"This crime does appear to be an aberration in defendant’s character, as the vast majority of testimony presented indicated (the) defendant is a good person," Aho wrote.
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The the girl abducted nearly two decades ago, now a young woman raised under a false identity, has formally changed her name back to Kamiyah.
Kamiyah had said she hopes the court will impose a lenient sentence on the woman who raised her, but remained far away during Friday's sentencing.
Her paternal great-grandmother, Barbara Stewart, told News4Jax that the now 19-year-old stayed in North Carolina, not wanting to attend Friday's sentencing because she did not want to have to decide whether to sit with her birth family or the family that raised her.
Stewart said Kamiyah was left in an unimaginable position and has a long road ahead of her.
“Some things got to be worked out still, because she loves the lady that had taken her away and she loves her mother," Stewart said. "And you know, sometimes, it’s just going to take time for it to heal."
Stewart said she believes Williams is sorry for what she did.
"You know, the lady that had her did take care of her, and thank God for that. But still that don’t make it right," she said.
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