Stolen from a hospital just hours after she was born, an 18-year-old woman finally learned her true identity and was reunited on Friday with her birth family by video chat.
The woman she thought was her mother from birth was charged with her kidnapping.
Alexis Manigo burst into tears as she said goodbye to the woman she had called ‘mom’ for 18 years – the woman she just found out had kidnapped her on the day she was born. For nearly two decades the world knew Manigo as Kamiyah Mobley, a newborn baby who was abducted from a Florida hospital by a woman dressed as a nurse. Authorities said that woman was Gloria Williams, 51, who blew a kiss to Manigo as she waived extradition to Jacksonville, where she will face kidnapping charges.
‘I love you mom,’ Manigo told Williams as the two shared a moment, separated by a mesh screen in the Colleton County Jail in Walterboro, South Carolina. She could also be heard crying ‘Momma’ through the caged window of a security door and told Williams she was ‘praying for her’.
Just hours after police revealed that Kamiyah Mobley had been found, Manigo took to Facebook to defend her abductor.
‘My mother raised me with everything I needed and most of all everything I wanted,’ she wrote. ‘My mother is no felon.’
The mystery of Kamiyah Mobley became a national sensation when she was stolen from her mother Shanara Mobley’s arms at the University Medical Center in Jacksonville in July 1998. Williams had suffered a miscarriage about a week before she drove the three hours from South Carolina to Florida and abducted baby Kamiyah, Walterboro Live reports. Mobley was only eight hours old when she was taken from her young mother by a woman posing as a nurse at University Medical Center. A massive search ensued, with helicopters circling the hospital and the city on high alert, and thousands of tips came in over the years, but she had disappeared. All that time, Kamiyah’s neighbors in Walterboro knew her as Gloria William’s daughter, Alexis Manigo.
“She wasn’t an abused child or a child who got in trouble. But she grew up with a lie for 18 years,” Joseph Jenkins, who lives across the street, told Press.
Some months ago, the young woman “had an inclination” that she may have been kidnapped, the sheriff said. Authorities didn’t say why she suspected this, or how her case came to the attention of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. But the center soon reached out to the cold case detectives at the sheriff’s office, and Mobley provided a swab of her cheek for DNA analysis that proved the match, the sheriff said.
The center has tracked 308 infant abductions since 1983 by non-family members in the US. Of those cases, 12 were still missing at the end of last month. That’s now one number smaller. Jacksonville police said the teenager found out on Friday morning that the woman who raised her in Walterboro her whole life was not her real mother. Within hours Manigo was able to reconnect over FaceTime with Shanara and her father Craig Aiken, who both cried ‘tears of joy’ after a detective told them their baby had been found. Her family is planning to drive to South Carolina this weekend to reunite with the daughter they thought they had lost forever.
Meanwhile Williams, who also has two biological children who grew up with Kamiyah, will be extradited back to Florida as soon as possible and is being held without bond, according to Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams. Williams could face up to life in prison if convicted. The news came as a shock to neighbors who said Williams seemed like any regular member of the community. She was employed as a social worker, attended church every Sunday and was passionate about volunteering for the local Veterans Association.
‘The family is a good family,’ said Ruben Boatright, who has known Williams for 15 years and watched Kamiyah grow up. ‘You don’t want to think bad thoughts of anyone in your family, and that she would do something like that,’ he told WJXT. ‘But then it’s right there staring you in the face. So you don’t know what to say or do.’
Boatright said Kamiyah was a well-mannered teen who was ‘very well read’ and ‘disciplined’. He said his opinion of Williams hasn’t changed, despite the news.
‘She did that 18 years ago,’ he said. ‘Eighteen years ago she was a young lady and you don’t know what her emotional state was then.’
Investigators are currently speaking with Williams’ family to learn more about the abduction. Authorities have not yet determined Williams’ links to Jacksonville.
A cousin of Gloria Williams said the revelation was ‘brand new to all of us.’ Tesha Stephens spoke briefly with reporters on Friday outside the Walterboro home where Kamiyah was raised. She said she didn’t know how the young woman discovered her past.
‘Right now she’s holding up… She’s processing everything and she’s probably going to have to take this day-by-day,’ she said. ‘This was something brand new to all of us.’
The sensational news solves a cold case that accumulated more than 2,500 tips in search of the girl and captivated both the city and the country for more than a decade. The case broke thanks to a tip received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last year that led Jacksonville police to South Carolina. The source of the tip has not been revealed.
They found an 18-year-old woman with Kamiyah Mobley’s birth date but a different name and quickly discovered that fraudulent documents had been used to establish her identity.
A DNA sample from the teen was taken and submitted to a crime lab, where it was matched with the original newborn DNA taken the day Kamiyah was born. The test confirmed the teen was, in fact, Kamiyah.
Gloria Williams was arrested on Friday morning at her home. Kamiyah was not present when she was taken in to custody. Court records show that Gloria Williams has an extensive criminal record and has been found guilty of writing fraudulent checks and welfare fraud. She was also charged with a minor crime for disturbing the peace two months after Kamiyah was abducted, Jacksonville.com reports.