By RACHEL QUIGLEY
UPDATED: 04:14 EST, 31 July 2012
A woman who snatched a newborn from a hospital more than two decades ago and raised the child as her own was sentenced on Monday to 12 years in prison.
Ann Pettway, 51, had pleaded guilty to kidnapping in February and offered details of the 1987 kidnapping.
She said she took a train from her Connecticut home to Harlem Hospital, where she scooped up three-week-old Carlina White, who had been brought to the emergency room with a high fever.
As part of Pettway’s plea bargain, prosecutors recommended ten to twelve-and-a-half years in prison.
Deep regret: A court sketch of Ann Pettway who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for snatching Carlina White from a Harlem hospital in 1987. She apologized to Miss White’s biological parents (left) today
Guilty: Ann Pettway was sentenced to 12 years in prison after admitting she kidnapped a newborn child in 1987
But they raised the suggested sentence to 20 years last week, saying the Probation Department had unearthed new facts about the case that made a stiffer sentence more appropriate.
The judge handed down the 12-year sentence on Monday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Prosecutors said it appeared that Pettway, of Raleigh, North Carolina, kidnapped the ailing infant because she wanted a baby ‘and constructed a web of lies that denied the child the truth about her family for 23 years’.
In court, Carlina’s biological mother Joy White read out a victim impact statement recounting the horror of the day her daughter was snatched.
Suffering: The parents of the abducted girl, Carl Tyson and Joy White, spoke outside the Manhattan court today to say they were rebuilding a relationship with their daughter
‘All I could think was how could anyone rip out an intravenous tube from my daughter’s tiny leg, when she had such a high temperature and needed the drip to survive.’
She said since Carlina came back into her life, her daughter has been in an ‘overwrought emotional state’, according to the New York Daily News.
‘I love my daughter, and I want to be there for her,’ said White, 41. ‘But it breaks my hearts listening to her speak about her “auntie” or her “little brother”, when in fact she is not talking about our family, but another family that has claimed her as their own.’
In a brief statement to Judge Kevin Castel, Pettway apologized to White: ‘If they don’t accept it, I understand,’ she said. ‘I’m here to right my wrong and ask forgiveness.’
During the proceeding, Pettway told the court: ‘I went to the hospital. I took a child. It was wrong.’
Reunited: Carlina White, left, managed to track down her birth mother Joy White, right, using a website for missing children
But she offered no explanation for her action.
White said she encountered Pettway at the hospital on the day her daughter disappeared, dressed like a nurse.
‘She came up to me and said to me, “Don’t cry. Your daughter is going to be OK”.’
The case was solved by Carlina herself.
As a teenager, however, Carlina began to suspect that she was not related to her mother.
Her mother had been arrested six times for robbery, theft, marijuana possession and attempted embezzlement. But her biggest concern was that she and her mother did not look alike.
In January 2011, Carlina became pregnant and asked Pettway for a copy of her birth certificate because she needed it to register for pre-natal care.
Baby: Carlina was just three weeks old when she was taken by Pettway
Distraught: Carlina’s natural parents soon after her disappearance
Pettway told Carlina she did not have a certificate and that her real mother had been a drug addict who had given her away.
Carlina was unconvinced and scoured the website of a group specializing in reuniting abducted children with their families. On the site she recognised a picture of herself as an infant.
The group contacted police and, after DNA tests, they told Carlina that she was the daughter of Joy and Carl Tyson. By then they had been separated for years.
In a further twist to the story, Carlina discovered that her parents had sued the hospital following the abduction and in 1992 received a £500,000 settlement, but had spent all the money.
It has been reported that Carlina flew back to Atlanta after questioning her mother about the settlement. Joy, who claimed she spent the money supporting her two other children, said she was in touch with Carlina by phone and added: ‘I love my daughter and want her back. I want her to spend time with me and I want her to get to know me.’
Pettway will be sentenced in May.