New York-- Decades ago a woman from North Carolina took a couple's child and raised her as her own.
Fast forward 23 years and the secret is no more and the woman has admitted to the crime in 2011.
Monday, July 30, Ann Pettway, the woman who snatched that newborn baby from a Manhattan hospital more than two decades ago was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Pettway, 51, pleaded guilty to a Kidnapping charge in February. Pettway confessed to taking 3-week-old Carlina White from Harlem Hospital's emergency room in 1987.
CBS NY was there for the sentencing. Pettway admitted to the kidnapping after suffering several miscarriages, and was desperate to be a mother. Prosecutors said it appeared that Pettway, of Raleigh, N.C., kidnapped the ailing infant because she wanted a baby "and constructed a web of lies that denied the child the truth about her family for 23 years."
Pettway changed White's name to "Nejdra Nance" and raised her in Bridgeport, Conn. As Pettway admitted her guilt, Carlina's birth mother, Joy White, quietly cried in the courtroom gallery.
Afterward, she told reporters that she was outraged at the plea bargain and felt a decade in prison would be too light a punishment for the woman who had robbed her so cruelly. Justice, she said, would be one year for every year she was separated from Carlina.
"I've lost 23 years of being with my daughter," she said, adding that those decades were filled with pain and heartache.
White said she encountered Pettway at the hospital on the day her daughter disappeared, dressed like a nurse. "She came up to me and said to me, 'Don't cry. Your daughter is going to be OK.'"
During the proceeding, Pettway told the court: "I went to the hospital. I took a child. It was wrong." In a letter to the judge before sentencing, Pettway apologized and said the kidnapping would never have occurred if seeking professional help for mental trauma from her failed pregnancies and being able to discuss family secrets had not been forbidden in her family's home.
"Because of my actions so many lives were hurt," she said in the handwritten letter.
She said she still loves the woman she raised, "a wonderful bright young woman."
"All I can do now is ask forgiveness from her and her parents. It may not sound correct on paper but I am hopelessly SORRY," she wrote. "My action led to such a huge loss for her parents, but there is nothing I can do to right this wrong that I committed."
White said she had long suspected Pettway wasn't her biological mother because they didn't look anything alike and Pettway could never provide her with a birth certificate.
White solved the case herself 23 years later after finding her photo on a website with images of missing children. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children helped reunite White with her biological mother.