LUBBOCK, Texas – A newborn taken from her parents' home less than a week after birth was back in her mother's arms Tuesday morning, and a 33-year-old woman was in custody.
Detectives found the little girl late Monday in a car seat abandoned beneath a condominium carport in 104-degree heat. A tip had led them to Stephanie Lynn Anderson Jones, and Jones, now held on kidnapping charges, led them to the baby.
The newborn's mother, Erica Ysasaga, was reunited with tiny Priscilla Nicole Maldonado late Monday night and wasn't about to let her out of her sight again.
"The doctors wanted to check her and I didn't want to let go. I didn't want to stop hugging and kissing her," Ysasaga said.
The terrifying saga started shortly after Priscilla was born. A woman in medical scrubs began visiting the mother's hospital room, asking questions about Priscilla and then offering to drop by their home with a swing and some baby clothes, Ysasaga told police.
But police say the woman was only posing as a nurse, and that when she visited Ysasaga's home on Sunday, she fled with the newborn while Ysasaga was momentarily distracted with her 2-year-old son.
Police Lt. Roy Bassett said a tip led police to Jones, who was being questioned along with her husband.
Jones closely matched the description given by Priscilla's family members of the woman at the hospital and later at their home who they believed was a nurse, Bassett said.
Nurses on duty also remembered seeing the woman on repeated visits to the hospital, police said. But no one asked why she was not wearing the correct color of scrubs or why she had no identification badge, officials said. Bassett said nurses from other medical facilities often wear scrubs and sometimes visit newborns and their families.
"From what I understand, they don't check and identify every possible visitor who comes to the hospital," he said. "She didn't make any attempt to take the baby from the hospital and didn't spark any suspicions."
Beatrice Madrid, Ysasaga's grandmother, said that when the woman showed up at the house Sunday, her granddaughter was holding Priscilla in the living room, and the woman encouraged Ysasaga to bring the baby outside into daylight.
The baby had jaundice, a common complication in newborns that causes a yellowing of the skin because of a buildup of pigment in the blood.
Ysasaga said the woman told her she wanted to put the newborn in a baby pageant. Ysasaga said she told her the baby was sick, but the woman kept pressing, saying next that she had relatives on the next block and wanted to show them the baby.
She finally relented and told the woman she would accompany her, but she became distracted by her son, and the woman disappeared with the infant. Police issued an Amber Alert.
In trying to gain Ysasaga's confidence, the woman had given a driver's license number and Social Security number, but Bassett said neither matched with the name the woman had given the family.
The abduction occurred less than a year after Ysasaga's and Jesse Maldonado's 2-month-old daughter, Faith Esperanza Maldonado, choked to death. Police ruled out foul play in the baby's death.
When Priscilla was found, Bassett said, she was flushed and "very warm." A detective placed her in his air-conditioned patrol car until paramedics arrived. Ysasaga said Tuesday that the baby's hair had been cut, possibly to pass Priscilla off as a boy.
"She's back into our hands. Everybody's happy," Jesse Madrid, the baby's great-uncle, said. "We couldn't have asked for more."