UPDATE: 911 call shows mom doubted half-sister took baby

2014-02-11T11:15:00Z 2014-02-28T22:09:18Z UPDATE: 911 call shows mom doubted half-sister took baby Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
February 11, 2014 11:15 am

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A recording of a 911 call from the mother of a Wisconsin infant who was taken from his home last week shows the distraught woman didn't think her half-sister, who is now charged in the kidnapping, had committed the crime.

Authorities on Monday released the nine-minute recording of the call Brianna Marshall, 18, made when she realized her son was missing.

Marshall told dispatchers that her half-sister was in the home the night before and that she awoke to find her half-sister and the infant gone. But the mother also asserted that her half-sister wouldn't take her son.

"I called her, and she's bawling her eyes out and told me to call the cops," Marshall said.

"But she's claiming she doesn't have the kid, correct?" the dispatcher asks.

"No, she wouldn't take my son," Marshall said.

Federal prosecutors charged the half-sister, Kristen Smith of Denver, with kidnapping Friday, hours after a police chief discovered the missing newborn, Kayden Powell, behind a gas station in West Branch, Iowa. The baby, wrapped in blankets and left in a plastic storage bin, was alive and well despite being left in freezing weather for up to 29 hours.

Smith, 31, is being held in her own cell at the Cedar County jail in Tipton, Iowa, while she awaits transfer to federal custody to face the kidnapping charge, Sheriff Warren Wethington said Monday.

"I don't feel comfortable putting her in with the general population due to the circumstances and media coverage other inmates would have seen," he said. "Some of the inmates over there are mothers, sisters, nieces and aunts. I don't think it would be in the interest for her safety."

The FBI alleges Smith took the boy from his great-grandmother's home in southern Wisconsin early Thursday, five days after Kayden was born, and began driving to Colorado. After Marshall discovered the baby was missing and called police, an officer reached Smith on her cellphone while she was passing through Iowa and instructed her to stop for questioning.

An officer who met Smith at a gas station in West Branch, Iowa, found no sign of Kayden. Smith repeatedly denied any connection to the disappearance, but she was taken into custody on a warrant from Texas charging her with tampering with government records and fraud.

About 29 hours later, the police chief found Kayden. The boy was reunited with his parents at an Iowa hospital, where he was discharged in good condition.

After the discovery, the FBI says Smith admitted that she took the baby and put him there. Investigators found online communications in which she falsely claimed to be pregnant or have given birth and a prosthetic pregnancy belly in her car.

Smith has an extradition hearing scheduled Friday on the Texas charge, but authorities said they believe her next move will be to Wisconsin because the federal case gets top priority.

Federal prosecutors in Madison have issued an arrest warrant for Smith, which gives them the power to place her in federal custody anytime. They will likely wait at least until a grand jury hands down an indictment, which could happen next week.

"She's not going anywhere" until then, Cedar County Attorney Jeffrey Renander said.

An attorney representing Smith in the extradition, Victoria Noel, didn't return a message from The Associated Press.

EARLIER STORY

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa sheriff says he's jailing a woman suspected of kidnapping a baby apart from the general population for safety reasons.

Cedar County Sheriff Warren Wethington said Monday that 31-year-old Kristen R. Smith of Denver, Color., is in her own cell at the county jail in Tipton, Iowa.

He says he didn't feel comfortable holding Smith with other female inmates who had seen media coverage of the allegations against her.

Smith was charged with kidnapping Friday after the police chief in West Branch, Iowa discovered missing Wisconsin newborn Kayden Powell, alive and well despite being in freezing temperatures for up to 29 hours.

The FBI alleges Smith took the boy from her half-sister's home and left him in a plastic crate outside a gas station before she was arrested Thursday.

EARLIER STORY

TOWN OF BELOIT, Wis. (AP) — A woman who pretended to be pregnant stole her half-sister's newborn boy from a Wisconsin home and left him in a storage crate outside an Iowa gas station in frigid temperatures as police closed in, according to court documents filed Friday.

Federal prosecutors in Madison charged Kristen Smith of Denver with kidnapping Friday afternoon, hours after an Iowa police chief miraculously discovered Kayden Powell, who is nearly a week old, alive and well in the plastic storage crate that morning. Police found a prosthetic pregnancy belly in Smith's car along with baby clothes, a car seat and a stroller, but no sign of Kayden, according to the affidavit.

The discovery of the infant shortly after 10 a.m. Friday capped a frantic search that involved scores of police officers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.

"He's strong," the newborn's great-uncle, Mark Bennett, said of the boy. "I'm glad that baby is still living instead of in a ditch somewhere on a strange highway."

Online court records didn't list Smith's case or a defense attorney Friday evening. She faces life in prison if convicted.

According to police and the affidavit, the boy's mother, Brianna Marshall, called police around 4:30 a.m. Thursday to report her newborn had vanished from his bassinet in Bennett's home, where she and the baby's father, Bruce Powell, had been staying.

She said Smith had been at the house but left a couple hours earlier to return to Colorado. While police were at the house, Smith called on her cellphone. She told police that Marshall and Bruce Powell were planning to move to Denver on Saturday to live with her and she had Kayden's clothes in the car but didn't have the boy with her.

Police told her to pull over for questioning. An officer met her at a Kum & Go gas station near Interstate 80 in West Branch, Iowa. She was arrested about 5:30 a.m. on an outstanding Texas warrant.

The affidavit said Smith denied any knowledge of Kayden's whereabouts. A search of her cellphone revealed emails in which she said she gave birth on Feb. 5, according to the document. A search of her Facebook page turned up postings in which she claimed she was pregnant.

Smith didn't appear pregnant, according to the affidavit. A pregnancy test administered while she was in custody came back negative, U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil said. Smith also failed a lie-detector test regarding Kayden's location, eventually saying that the infant's parents had given the infant to another family member in Chicago, the prosecutor said.

Meanwhile, dozens of police officers began searching for the child at possible stop-offs along Smith's route from Wisconsin to Iowa. West Branch Police Chief Mike Horihan, native of Waterloo (Columbus High graduate), decided to check the area around a BP station about 500 yards from the Kum & Go station where Smith was arrested.

He heard a baby's cries and discovered Kayden in a closed storage crate alongside the building. The newborn was swaddled in blankets and was responsive and healthy, the chief said.

"I had tears in my eyes," BP station manager Jay Patel said, recalling his reaction to the police chief telling him that the infant had been found. "It's good news but it's sad, too."

Temperatures in West Branch, about 180 miles southwest of the Town of Beloit, dipped below zero Thursday night into Friday. They were still in the single digits when the baby was found.

"Surprisingly with the weather the way it was, he was surprisingly healthy," Horihan, the Iowa police chief, said. "To be honest with you, that's not what I expected."

The baby was transported to an Iowa City hospital, where he was reunited with his parents and released Friday evening.

Police interviewed Smith again in jail after the baby was found at the gas station, the affidavit said. She told officers she took the boy from her sister's home and put him behind the BP station. She offered a hand-drawn map of where the baby was found, the affidavit said.

Bennett, the baby's great-uncle, told The Associated Press he came home on Thursday night to find a black SUV with Illinois license plates parked in front of his house. Inside he found his mother, the baby's mother and father, and a woman he had never met. His mother introduced her as Brianna Marshall's stepsister, he said, explaining later that the two women had the same father but different mothers.

He said he never learned Smith's name and went straight to his room in the basement. When he woke up, the baby and Smith were gone.

He kept telling Marshall that Smith had to have taken the child but Marshall refused to believe it, he said. The baby's bassinet was 2 feet from the parents' bed and he found a paring knife on the ground next to the bed.

"I could have woke up to a bloody mess," Bennett said.

He questioned how Smith could have taken the baby without waking the couple. He said he hopes she gets locked up for life.

"You stole him like you're stealing something from the grocery store," the great-uncle said. "Nobody in their right mind should have thought of that."

Smith appears to go by multiple names and has had run-ins with the law in multiple states, authorities said. The Texas warrant stems from a felony indictment charging her with tampering with government documents late last year while she was in jail in Colorado.

A spokesman for the Arapahoe County, Colo., sheriff's office declined to discuss the details of her arrest there. A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office in Tarrant County, Texas, said it's not clear why Colorado authorities released Smith instead of sending her back to Texas.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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