Kamiyah Mobley's disappearance was a cold case for years, until police say she was found living in South Carolina with her accused kidnapper

By Adam Carlson
January 18, 2017 12:47 PM
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Kamiyah Mobley was a newborn, not even a day old, when she went missing in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1998. Police said she was abducted — but their search for her was fruitless, and the case went cold.

On Friday, nearly two decades later, investigators announced a dramatic new development in the case: Mobley had been found, alive and well, living in South Carolina with her accused abductor, Gloria Williams. Mobley believed the woman was her mother.

Here are five things you need to know about the case.

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1. She Was Taken by Someone Posing as a Nurse

Mobley was only 8 hours old when authorities say a woman posing as a health care worker took her from Jacksonville’s University Medical Center in July 1998.

According to local reports, Mobley was briefly given to the woman because her family believed the woman was a nurse, while hospital staff believed the woman was a relative.

“How does a grown person sit there waiting for the time to take a baby?” Mobley’s paternal grandmother, Velma Aiken, tells PEOPLE.

Aiken recalls seeing Mobley being carried away from her in the hospital by a woman who said she was taking the baby for testing. But Aiken says she grew suspicious when she noticed the woman was carrying a handbag. By that point, it was too late.

Kamiyah Mobley
Colleton County High School/the Press and Standard

2. The Case Made News — Then Went Cold

Mobley’s hospital abduction attracted widespread media attention. But the case was never solved — a statistical anomaly, as the vast majority of infant hospital abductions are closed.

“It’s 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,” Mobley’s birth mother, Shanara Mobley, told the Florida Times-Union on the 10th anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance.

“The main thing that beats you up the most is … you don’t know nothing.”

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams tells PEOPLE it’s still unclear why Gloria Williams was allegedly at the Mobleys’ hospital.

“Think about the timing of the fact that Kamiyah’s mother was a young mother at the time, so how did she [Gloria Williams] know that or did she know that?” Sheriff Williams says. “Was she just lucky in finding a young underage mother that she thought maybe did not have family support or something? You can really go crazy trying to fill in the blanks.”

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WATCH: Newborn Stolen from Hospital 18 Years Ago Found Safe

3. Anonymous Man’s Tip Led Police to Kamiyah

At a news conference on Friday, Sheriff Williams laid out a series of revelations in the case: He said that investigators were led to Kamiyah in Walterboro, South Carolina, on the basis of tips beginning late last year.

The first break came through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. An unnamed male caller contacted the center’s hotline.

In Walterboro, investigators developed information suggesting an 18-year-old girl they found living as Alexis Manigo was actually Kamyiah. A test from DNA obtained from Kamiyah confirmed it.

However, Sheriff Williams tells PEOPLE that Kamiyah may have already had suspicions she had been abducted, which arose after she was unable to get a job because her identifying paperwork was fraudulent.

One of Kamiyah’s friends confirmed this account to PEOPLE, saying Kamiyah learned her real identity two years ago.

Gloria Williams, who raised Kamiyah, was arrested Friday on charges of first-degree kidnapping and third-degree interference with custody. She faces life in prison if convicted.

On Tuesday, she was extradited to Jacksonville and remains in custody. She has not entered a plea. It is not clear if she has retained an attorney.

Gloria Williams
Jacksonville Sheriff’s office

4. Kamiyah Has Defended Her Accused Kidnapper

Speaking to ABC News in an interview that aired Wednesday, Kamiyah said she will “always love” Gloria Williams.

“She loved me for 18 years,” she said. “She raised me for 18 years.”

Of the kidnapping accusation, Kamiyah said, “From that one mistake, I was given the best life. I was. I had everything I ever needed, wanted. I had love especially.

“I understand what she did was wrong, but just don’t lock her up and throw away the key like everything she did was just awful,” Kamiyah continued.

Her biological relatives understand how she feels. Aiken, her grandmother, tells PEOPLE, “My heart bleeds for her, because Gloria is the only mama my granddaughter knows.”

Kamiyah Mobley (left) and Gloria Williams
Tampa Bay Times/ZUMA Wire

5. Kamiyah Is a ‘Normal’ Girl Who Has Reunited with Her Birth Family

Sheriff Williams has corroborated Kamiyah’s account of her upbringing, telling PEOPLE, “For all accounts, she was well taken care of. She was raised a normal, healthy, 18-year-old girl.”

As an adult, the decision to reunite with her biological family — or even to relocate to Jacksonville — is Kamiyah’s alone. But she has already spoken with several relatives by FaceTime and has met with her biological parents.

“We weren’t talking about nothing serious. We kept it light,” Aiken tells PEOPLE of their video conversation.

The reunion went very well, too, according to Kamiyah’s birth father, Craig Aiken.

“First meeting was beautiful, it was wonderful, couldn’t [have gone] better,” he told a local TV station.

Velma Aiken says she understands if Kamiyah doesn’t want to move away from the only home she has ever known.

“I’ve been waiting 18 years for this,” she tells PEOPLE. “If she decides she wants to reunite with us — that is fine with me.

“I know I got the rest of my life and her life with her.”

• With KC BAKER, CHRISTINE PELISEK and JEFF TRUESDELL