Newborn kidnapping suspect Kristen Smith
was indicted Wednesday on federal charges after allegedly kidnapping her half-sister’s newborn baby and then abandoning the child behind a gas station in near freezing temperatures. The baby survived.
According to U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil, a federal grand jury in Madison, Wis., returned the indictment charging Smith with kidnapping, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, the Associated Press reported
Smith was being held at the Cedar County Jail in Tipton, Iowa, near where she was initially arrested after police caught up with her on the road.
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Federal law enforcement officials are expected to transfer Smith to Wisconsin before an initial court appearance scheduled Friday afternoon, Myra Longfield, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, told the AP.
There were no new details in Wednesday's indictment, which stated that Smith "knowingly and unlawfully seized, confined, kidnapped, abducted and carried away the victim, K.P., and willfully transported the victim in interstate commerce from Wisconsin to Iowa."
In response to the indictment, Smith's court-appointed defense attorney Victoria Noel told reporters, "She understands her sister has gone through an ordeal and is hoping she's doing all right, regardless of what may or may not have happened."
According to authorities, the 31-year-old Smith was visiting her half-sister Brianna Marshall in the Wisconsin town of Beloit when in the early morning hours of Feb. 6 Marshall awoke to find her sister gone and her baby missing from his bassinet
. Marshall immediately called 911.
Local police pulled Smith over while she was driving through Iowa on Interstate 80.
Upon searching the vehicle, authorities found baby clothing, a car seat, and a stroller in her car but no sign of the child. When asked where the child was, Smith reportedly told police that she had no knowledge of the baby’s whereabouts.
Smith was subsequently taken into custody after authorities discovered that she had an outstanding warrant for tampering with government records from Texas.
Nearly 30 hours after Smith’s arrest, the baby was found by West Branch Police Chief Mike Horihan, who discovered the child behind a BP gas station in close proximity to where the suspect had been pulled over by police. The baby was reportedly wrapped in blankets inside of a plastic storage crate. Despite the near freezing temperatures, the child was alive and well.
"The outside temperatures were below freezing at the time K.P. was located," Horihan’s complaint said. "After K.P. was found, the defendant admitted she had taken K.P. and had placed him behind the BP gas station and also provided law enforcement with a map of where the baby was found."
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According to investigators, prior to the alleged kidnapping Smith had falsely claimed to be pregnant in emails and on social media sites. In addition to the baby accessories found in her car, authorities also recovered a prosthetic pregnancy belly they believe belonged to Smith.
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