Guest Author - Debora Dyess
Kidnap Victim Returns to Family 23 Years Later
Carlina White was kidnapped when she was 19-days-old from Harlem Hospital. Now, 23 years later, she has the questionable honor of being the kidnap victim who was kept away from her family the longest.
The White’s horror began on August 4, 1987, when Carlina developed a fever. They arrived at Harlem Hospital in New York City late, and the baby’s temperature was 104◦. She was admitted and her parents, Joy White and Carl Tyson, went home to get some sleep. When they returned, they were told that the baby was missing, stolen by a woman wearing a nurse’s uniform.
The investigation into the kidnapping led nowhere, and eventually it became a cold case.
Then one day in December (2010), Carlina, who knew herself as Nejdra Nance, contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She requested their help in finding her biological parents.
She’d long suspected that Cassandra Pettway, the woman who raised her, was not her mother. While growing up, she searched the woman’s face for similarities to her own, but found none. When she became pregnant at sixteen, Pettway couldn’t provide a birth certificate. She’d never felt a ‘mother-daughter’ connection to Pettway and began to wonder about their relationship.
As an adult, Carline/Nejdra and her young daughter moved to Atlanta, GA. It was then that she began her search for her biological parents. Her pursuit led her to the idea of calling the Center. Center staff found three possible sets of parents for then-Nejdra, one being Joy White and Carl Tyson.
Ernie Allen, president of the Center for Exploited and Missing Children said, “"This young woman gets all the credit. She felt it.”
She also felt it when she looked at pictures of herself as an infant. So did her mother and father, according to their emotional statements. A DNA test provided by the New York Police Department confirmed the relationship, making it official – Nejdra Nance was Carlina White.
In an interview with the New York Daily News Carlina’s mother, her real mother, said, "As soon as I saw those pictures (faxed to her by the Center), I said, 'That's my daughter. I saw myself in her." A delighted White held a photo of an infant Carlina.
“I already knew in my heart that this was my daughter," Tyson told reporters, thinking back to that moment when his daughter was given back to him. "All I could do was shed tears."
A lot of tears have been shed in the White-Tyson households in the past few days, this time all of them in happiness. Reunited with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and even brothers and sisters that she has never known, Carlina is living in a whirlwind. Traveling between Atlanta and New York with her own child, she’s trying to adjust, trying to take it all in. It is, she admits, and she has a lot to take in. She began by meeting her parents, now divorced, and having a Sunday family dinner with her mother’s side of the family. The day was full of laughter, tears and hope.
That’s what people all over the world feel when they read of Carlina’s miracle.
In an interview on the ‘Today Show’, Ernie Allen summed it up for all of us. "There are lots of circumstances under which these children still could be out there still could be alive. So today Carlina White becomes a symbol that the search goes on for lots of others of America's missing children."
It’s quite a symbol to be.