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Missing NY Baby Found 23 Years Later

Missing NY Baby Found 23 Years Later

Carlina White, named Nejdra Nance by her abductor, landed at LaGuardia airport on Wednesday.

New York Daily News via YellowBrix

January 20, 2011

NEW YORK – Twenty-three years after being snatched as an infant, the victim of a hospital kidnapping cracked the cold case herself when doubts about her bogus “mom” led her home.

Carlina White – just 19 days old when her late-night abduction by a phony nurse stunned the city – was reunited last weekend with her overjoyed biological mother, father and other relatives.

“I’m overwhelmed. I’m just happy. It’s like a movie; it’s all brand new to me,” White told the Daily News Wednesday night as she arrived at LaGuardia Airport for the second reunion with her birth mom.

“Is it really happening?” her incredulous mom, Joy White, wondered after decades of prayers were answered. "I always dreamed this.

It was a stunning and unexpected resolution to one of the NYPD’s most frustrating cases: a kidnapper casually carrying an infant out of Harlem Hospital and into the wind.

The last time Joy White and her father, Carl Tyson, laid eyes on their chubby-cheeked child, Carlina was just 21 inches long, weighed 8 pounds and had a fever of 104. It was Aug. 4, 1987 – and it wasn’t until Jan. 4, 2011, that their now 23-year-old baby girl was able to let them know she was safe.

“I feel like I don’t know who I am!” she told staffers at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in a heartbreaking call around Christmas.

Center officials, long familiar with the White case, launched an investigation that confirmed Carlina’s suspicions.

“This young woman gets all the credit,” said center President Ernie Allen. “She felt it. Now she could have been just wrong – but in this case, we were able to help her get to the truth.”


Carlina White as an infant.

While Carlina and her once-distraught family were elated by their reunion, there was also anger at the woman who snatched the baby.

“I want her to suffer,” Joy White said of the kidnapper. “I want her to do some time, like I suffered for 23 years.”

Childhood filled with lies

Carlina was raised in Bridgeport, Conn., under an alias, Nejdra Nance. She told White that the woman she believed was her mother used phony IDs and Social Security numbers.

Joy White said Carlina told her the woman was a drug user who abused her – once hitting her in the face with a shoe – and often left her alone to baby-sit her younger “brother.”

A Bridgeport woman named Mary Pettway confirmed that her daughter, Cassandra, had raised Carlina. She refused to discuss the relationship further.

Cassandra Pettway lives in Georgia, and Mary Pettway said she and Carlina were with her at Christmas.

Reached by The News on her cell phone, Cassandra declined to discuss the family history.

“Are you serious?” she snapped. “What do you think my relationship is with her? Mother? No, that’s why I won’t talk to the media. They have it all wrong.”

It remained unclear how Cassandra Pettway came to raise Carlina. Police have not said who they believe abducted the baby.

“We have our suspicion, but not enough probable cause to make an arrest,” NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said.

The kidnapped girl said she began questioning whether she was really Pettway’s kin after her 16th birthday, prompting her to once write to Oprah Winfrey for help. The nagging doubts led her to bolt last year for Atlanta.

When she was pregnant with her now 5-year-old daughter, Carlina asked her fake mom for some paperwork on her background and received a startling response.

“I found out while I was pregnant. That lady told me she wasn’t my mother,” Carlina said. She said she began surfing websites on missing children.

“I came across a baby picture that looked like me,” she said.

Even before learning the truth, she had suspicions about the woman who was raising her. “I’ve always been looking,” she said.

She contacted the center for missing children in late December and they found three possible matches – including the 1987 hospital abduction.

DNA test brings elation

The NYPD sent detectives to collect DNA swabs from Carlina and her anxious parents, eventually leading to the improbable reunion Joy White always believed would happen one day.

Just as Carlina didn’t need a DNA test to know something wasn’t right with her “mother,” her birth parents didn’t need one to know the beautiful young woman was their missing child.

“I already knew in my heart that this was my daughter,” said Tyson, who was 22 when he last saw his daughter. “All I could do was shed tears.”

Joy White – who kept a framed picture of her infant daughter on her dresser all these years – screamed with delight when she first saw photos of her grownup girl Jan. 4.

“As soon as I saw those pictures, I said, ’That’s my daughter,’ " she said yesterday at her Bronx home, clutching her photo of infant Carlina. “I saw myself in her.”

The DNA matches came back on Tuesday night to the delight of all. By then, White and Tyson had met the young woman they still call Carlina. She flew up last weekend from Atlanta, bringing her daughter, Samani.

An aunt, Lisa White-Heatley, 47, said she and her relatives prepared a feast of curried chicken, macaroni and cheese, lasagna and oxtail to welcome Carlina back into the fold. “It wasn’t awkward. There was a connection right away. We loved her right away,” the aunt said of the reunion.

“We ate and talked and got to know each other… I feel great,” she said.

Joy White said meeting her granddaughter for the first time was a bonus.

“I can sleep! I can definitely sleep now because this has been on my mind for so many years,” said Joy White.

  • Pug_max600_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Excellent. Great ending.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 3 years ago


    I was 16 years old when this kidnapping took place. I remember the news reports on Channel 7 Eyewitness News. I also remember their story being featured in the NY Daily News. The photographs of the young parents have stayed with me all of these years. I remember the pain in their faces and also remember feeling a sense of deep love between them.

    This young lady is definitely a New Yorker (in her DNA)! She had guts, determination and common sense to know that things were "just not right". I am so glad that both of her parents are still alive and their families have remained bonded. Although Carlina is technically an adult and has her own life, I strongly believe that she needs to leave ATL promptly and move back up North. Too much of her personal info (lawsuit money from hospital, etc) is out there on the internet now. Folks are crazy, desperate and devious these days - always looking for an opportunity to take advantage of someone. Please go back up north Carlina with your family. They will protect you and your daughter. There is too much going on right now. I am SO HAPPY for you and your family. Live your life...

  • N1023300020_30025442_7610_max50


    over 3 years ago


    great story!

  • Policelinkbadge_max160_max50_max50


    over 3 years ago



  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Outstanding, there can be no better way to start a new year than that. Great job by the center and the NYPD. There is nothing better than a hapy ending.

  • Vpsomourningband_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Great news!

  • 321509_10150337897876897_990467885_n_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I am happy to hear that the two were reunited even after so long. It has to be a huge relief to the mother to know that her daughter was still alive. This is great news!

  • 012_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I am so happy to see a happy ending to this horrible tragedy. These parents missed out on all those precious years BUT have her back home now. Great job to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the NYPD!! Good to see a happy ending!!

  • Untitledma28839986-0002_max50


    over 3 years ago


    This big in the news in my area. It's nice to see a happy ending even if took 23 years. Great job my the Natoinal Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the NYPD Cold Case Squad.

  • Img_3413_sq90_max50


    over 3 years ago


    I saw this on the news this morning and they even showed bits of the news stories about when she was snatched from the hospital. Apparently the investigation showed there was a woman wandering the hospital/maternity ward for a few days before the child was taken. Back when that happened hospitals weren't as strict as they are now. I am sure this child was one of the reasons they clamped down on who can just walk in. Hopefully they will get enough information and evidence to make an arrest. Hopefully they are having a "nice" conversation with the woman who finally confessed to not being her Mother and encouraging her to talk. Thankfully the girl did not give up and kept seeking help until someone like the Center for Missing Children agreed to help. It's always nice to hear of the missing that survived and not killed. Even though they may not have had a good life growing up, it is always good to find they survived and reunited with their parents.

  • Police_link_badge_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Very good...I'm sure theres a lot more to this but...very good !!

  • John_groh_max50


    over 3 years ago


    Nice story, hope they can figure out who snatched her and put them behind bars for a lot of years.

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