A girl snatched from a hospital in Florida in 1998, just hours after she was born, has been found alive and healthy in South Carolina, authorities announced Friday, cracking a case that went unsolved for nearly two decades.
“She appears to be a normal 18-year-old woman,” Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said of Kamiyah Mobley, who was found in Walterboro living under a different name. “She has a lot to process, a lot to think about.”
The 51-year-old woman Mobley has been living with, Gloria Williams, has been arrested and charged with kidnapping and interference with custody.
The saga began on July 10, 1998, at the University Medical Center in Jacksonville – now known as the UF Health Jacksonville.
Shanara Mobley had just given birth to Kamiyah. Eight hours later, a woman posing as a nurse said the newborn had a fever and needed to be looked at. The woman picked up Kamiyah and left the hospital, never to be seen again.
Surveillance video released to the public in a plea for help showed a kidnapper that was too grainy to identify. And an extensive search of the hospital also turned up nothing.
A year after her disappearance, police had more than 2,000 leads and offered a $250,000 reward for Kamiyah, while the case drew national attention on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” First Coast News reported.
But all the leads ran dry, until, Williams said, a tipster began feeding information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that Kamiyah might be living in South Carolina.
Williams said Friday that a DNA swab test from the 18-year-old woman matched Kamiyah’s DNA from the hospital. He said the woman had an idea that something odd might have occurred in her past, but until the test came back positive, she believed Gloria Williams was her real mother all along.
“I can’t stress enough to give her some space and try to let her process this and get through it,” the sheriff told reporters Friday.
Williams said authorities confirmed only late Thursday night that they had found Kamiyah, and when they broke the news to her biological family, they were elated.
On the 10th anniversary of the kidnapping, Shanara Mobley, who was then 26, told the Florida Times-Union that it was “stressful to wake up every day knowing that your child is out there and you have no way to reach her or talk to her.”
She also told the newspaper that in 2000, she settled a lawsuit with the hospital over the case and received $1.5 million.
Gloria Williams was arrested at her home on Friday morning and will be sent to Jacksonville to face charges. As for Kamiyah, police say the opportunity is there for her to get back in touch with her biological family, but the decision to do so is up to her.
Authorities on Friday also did not reveal a motive for why Gloria Williams allegedly kidnapped the girl, saying that they are at the beginning stages of a complicated investigation.
“There are lots of questions left unanswered,” Williams said.