QUANAH, Texas – Alert nursing home employees were being credited Wednesday with notifying authorities after recognizing that the infant girl abducted a day earlier from Abilene was on their premises.
Paula Roach, 24, who has been charged with aggravated kidnapping, arrived Wednesday morning at the Quanah Nursing Center where her mother, a dietary manager, has worked for eight years. Roach was showing off an infant girl and telling workers that she had given birth a day earlier, said Steve Robinson, chief operating officer for Stroud-Robinson Health Care, the nursing home's management company.
Robinson said employees noticed the baby's pierced ears and healed navel and decided the baby could not be a day old. "That was a precursor to a more heightened awareness to, 'Hey, something's not really adding up,"' he said.
The workers contacted the Hardeman County Sheriff's Department, and Roach was taken into custody about 9:45 a.m. near the premises, he said.
"This nursing management is definitely on the ball. They've done a great job. They did the right thing," Robinson said. "This home is a very spiritual-based home. Everybody feels it was the hand of God intervening to help."
Sheriff Randy Akers said when he stopped the teal Chevrolet Lumina carrying Roach, her mother and the baby, he also decided the baby was not a newborn. He took the baby and asked the women to follow him to the Sheriff's Department, where Roach eventually confessed, he said.
The mother, who was not implicated or charged, apparently believed the infant was her granddaughter. The Lumina belonged to Roach's mother.
"She kept telling me that it was her daughter's baby," Akers said, adding that she eventually was persuaded. "She acted real surprised."
Capt. Barry Caver with the Texas Rangers said the 1995 teal Buick Skylark used in the abduction belonged to Roach's stepfather in Abilene. After law enforcement officers had identified her as a suspect, they went to the stepfather's home, where they found the car with diapers in it.
Caver said the stepfather told them she had borrowed the car.
Roach attended high school for a time in Quanah, 125 miles north of Abilene and just a few miles from the Oklahoma border. She now lives in Abilene, where she has worked at a Texas prison and a convenience store.
Abilene police say Roach snatched month-old Nancy Crystal Chavez from a parked minivan Tuesday as her mother turned around to return a shopping cart in a Wal-Mart parking lot. After Roach's arrest in Quanah, she was being returned to Abilene, where bond was set at $200,000.
Back at the nursing home, Robinson said employees were pleased to have played a role in the baby's safe return.
"It's just been a miracle," he said, "the way it's worked out."