JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A woman accused of kidnapping a newborn from a Jacksonville hospital in 1998 and raising the girl as her own daughter came face-to-face with that girl Wednesday morning.
Gloria Williams waived her right to a speedy trial in a Duval County courtroom, where Kamiyah Mobley, the girl she raised as Alexis Manigo for 18 years, made a surprise appearance.
When Williams walked in, Manigo gave a big smile and Williams smiled back.
Williams pleaded not guilty to one count of kidnapping and one count of interference with custody. She will be back in court on May 30.
The 51-year-old South Carolina woman's arrest in January ended a Jacksonville mystery that spanned nearly two decades.
The search for the baby, who was only 8 hours old when she was taken from the hospital, became a national story. The kidnapper, described at the time as being between 25 and 47 years old, wearing a nurse's flower-print jacket, teal scrubs and surgical gloves, was captured in grainy surveillance video, but was never found.
According to reports at the time, the girl's mother, Shanara Mobley, had just turned 16 and was befriended by a woman who passed herself off as a Mobley family member to the hospital and a medical professional to Shanara.
That woman told Shanara she was taking the baby for a medical treatment but instead left the hospital with the infant, according to reports.
The baby's 19-year-old father, Craig Aiken, was in jail at the time on a charge of lewd assault for having sex with a minor, because Shanara was 15 when he got her pregnant.
Over 2,500 tips came in to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office or National Center for Missing and Exploited Children over the 18 years since the baby was taken, and some of those tips eventually led investigators to Walterboro, South Carolina, where they found Willams and Manigo. They were able to confirm through DNA that Manigo was the missing infant.
After Wednesday's hearing, Manigo and Williams' attorney met privately with the prosecutor.
Attorney Gene Nichols, who is not associated with the case, said some weight will be given by prosecutors to what Manigo wants, but it can be tricky since her biological parents are also victims in the case.
“What we saw from Day 1, the child, who is now a young adult, was already talking about that she didn't want her kidnapping mother to receive a harsh sentence,” Nichols said. “It's going to be difficult for the State Attorney's Office, if they have competing victim interests as to what they want.”
He said it's likely the case won't go to trial.
“It is so fact specific. This is an event that just doesn't happen,” Nichols said. “It's going to take a lot of work. I think we might see a resolution get worked out between the two parties before it gets to a judge.”
Manigo declined to comment on the case as she left the courthouse.
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