JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One day after Florida authorities learned the child she had raised as her own was abducted from a Jacksonville hospital 18 years ago, Gloria Williams appeared in a South Carolina courtroom and waived extradition to Jacksonville to face charges of kidnapping and interfering with custody.
During a brief but emotional hearing in the Colleton County jail, a judge was told Williams, 51, was accused of a violent crime and is a flight risk. The judge denied bond.
Williams was expected to be brought to Florida by Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detectives as quickly as possible.
Now a teenager, Alexis Manigo, was identified earlier this week through DNA this week as Kamiyah Mobley, who was taken from University Medical Center, now UF Health Jacksonville, on July 10, 1998.
Williams blew a kiss to Alexis, whom she had raised as her daughter, and the teen responded by saying, "I love you, Mom." The two were allowed to spend a few moments together, separated by a mesh screen, before Williams was led back to her cell.
Williams' aunt, Susan Alls, said she watched Alexis grow up and graduate from Colleton County High School. She refuses to believe that the child doesn't belong to Williams.
"I don't think it's true," Alls said. "There has to be something going on with the DNA, whatever they did."
The I-TEAM found 25 previous addresses for Williams in South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and New York. There's no record of her ever living in Florida. Many of those residences were in Gwinnett County, near metro Atlanta, when she went by the name Gloria Bolden. She had also used the name Gloria Brown.
The family was evicted at least six times from six different addresses.
Williams and Alexis had most recently lived in a Habitat for Humanity home that had been built for the family in Walterboro, South Carolina. Neighbors said Williams lived there with her husband and Alexis. The husband was apparently on the road working when Williams was arrested Friday morning. [Williams arrest docket]
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Neighbors and those who knew Williams were shocked to learn the woman they have known for years is now sitting in the Colleton County jail.
"I was shocked. I was devastated because ... I wasn’t expecting that at all. Not with her. Not the type of person she is. Not the type of reputation that she carries," a Walterboro neighbor said.
Ruben Boatright said he has known Williams and the family for almost 15 years.
"I've seen Alexis grow up," Boatright said. "I've seen her in church and in the community. She's very well read, very mannerly, disciplined."
Boatright said Williams was an active member in her church and with the local Veterans Association, having a passion for helping veterans.
"The family is a good family. You don't want to think bad thoughts of anyone in your family, and that she would do something like that," Boatright said. "But then it's right there staring you in the face. So you don't know what to say or do."
Boatright said it's shocking to see what the entire family and their friends are having to deal with, but said somehow, he knows they will all get through it. Undoubtedly though, lives will be forever changed.
He said his opinion of Williams would not change after learning the news.
"No. She did that 18 years ago. Eighteen years ago she was a young lady and you don't know what her emotional state was then," Boatright said.
Other accounts from neighbors indicated Williams may have been passing through Jacksonville the day she stopped at what was then University Medical Center. A police account of the incident said the kidnapper was dressed as a nurse, befriended the baby's mother and walked out of the hospital with the newborn.
Other than the kidnapping arrest, Williams' criminal history is limited to charges of writing bad checks, welfare fraud and multiple traffic tickets. She was arrested in 2003 in Greenville, South Carolina, for breach of trust.
Court records show Williams was taken to court nine other times over financial issues.
What's next for accused kidnapper?
As the 18-year-old girl comes to terms with the life-changing news, the legal aspect of the case will move forward.
Randy Reep, a local attorney, pointed out the challenges that could come with the unusual case. But, he said, the outcome isn't hard to predict. Reep, who is not affiliated with the case, said prosecutors will build their case against Gloria Williams.
VIDEO: Long legal case ahead
"The child wasn’t injured or didn’t have violence on her, those types of things. I think it’ll be challenging to frame a sentence that would be appropriate," Reep said. "Although I would tell you, it’s going to be many, many years, if not life."
Reep said the sentencing phase of the trial will be especially interesting.
"This case, at least on the facts, based on DNA, doesn’t look to be a fact question. It looks to be a sentencing question,' he said. "She’ll have a talented attorney, I would imagine, who’s going to try to frame the world in her way (and) reduce the amount of incarceration she’ll face."
Still, Reep said, the outcome could likely be open-and-shut.
"Charges have been filed against her, there’s no statute of limitations problem because of the nature of the crime. So she’s going to be charged with a first degree life felony in Florida, and she’s going to be looking at a substantial amount of prison time, if not life in prison," Reep said.
The trial could last between six to nine months, Reep estimated.
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