SANFORD, Fla. – A woman on Friday abducted a 1-day-old baby from a secure hospital unit and apparently managed to smuggle the child from the facility inside a tote bag, police said.
Jennifer Latham, 39, of Sanford, was arrested a short time later after being pulled over by police in nearby Lake Mary, said Darrel Presley, deputy chief of the Sanford Police Department near Orlando.
Officials at Central Florida Regional Hospital alerted police of the abduction around 1:45 p.m. after hospital alarms indicated the child had been removed from the newborn unit, Presley said.
The hospital was immediately locked down as officials searched the grounds, but the woman was apparently able to slip by security because she had the child hidden in a bag, he said.
"We believe at this point she had a large blue tote bag that she may have actually placed the child inside," Presley said. "And she just apparently walked out."
Presley said hospital staff acted appropriately and quickly.
"But in just those few minutes that it takes to gather the information and disseminate it, she was able to walk from the maternity ward through the exit and then depart the hospital," he said.
Authorities initially believed they were looking for two women because the suspect wore street clothes into the hospital, then changed into a scrub-like shirt in an apparent attempt to blend in, Presley said.
Police in the nearby town of Lake Mary pulled over a vehicle at about 3 p.m. that matched a description of the vehicle witnesses described Latham driving, he said. The baby was found inside unharmed and has been returned to the hospital and reunited with the parents.
Presley said authorities had no indication the suspect is related to the child. Latham was in custody and being interviewed by detectives.
"It does appear that it could be a stranger abduction, which is very, very rare," he said.
Hospital spokesman Craig Bair said the child was wearing a device that set off an alarm when the infant was taken outside the secure unit.
"We're still putting together the facts," Bair said.