In 1998, Gloria Bolden Willians sneaked into the neonatal nursery of a Jacksonville, Fla., hospital dressed as a nurse. After telling a brand-new mother that she was going to place the child in an infant seat, she walked out of the hospital with Kamiyah Mobley, a newborn baby girl. Williams then went to her South Carolina home, told her family that she had given birth to the child in a Charleston hospital and introduced the family to its newest member.
Since that fateful day, Williams’ family and friends believed she had a daughter named Alexis Manigo.
In 2016, Williams’ story began unraveling when the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received tips that baby Kamiyah was living in Walterboro, S.C. Nearly two decades later, 52-year-old Gloria Williams faces 22 years in prison after pleading guilty to kidnapping and interference with custody, according to CNN.
Wernoskie Williams, Gloria’s husband of six years, found out about the kidnapping when he arrived home from work one day and found his wife waiting for him on the porch to tell him her secret. Gloria had earlier revealed the story to Alexis when she was a teenager and couldn’t get a Social Security card for a new job at a Shoney’s restaurant, the Florida Times-Union reports. Alexis, curious about her birth mother, Shanara Mobley, eventually found a cellphone number and called, but hung up when Shanara answered.
Later that year, Shanara texted her missing daughter “Happy Birthday,” to which she replied, “Why do you think it’s my birthday?” They wouldn’t speak again until a year later, when they met for the first time in Walterboro. A subsequent DNA test proved that Alexis Manigo was actually the missing Kamiyah. Shanara says she understands what Gloria did was wrong but doesn’t think she should be incarcerated for a long time because she raised her daughter well.
Gloria told her husband and investigators that she committed the kidnapping when she was in an abusive relationship and had suffered from depression after a miscarriage in 1998. But police and medical records from doctor’s visits in July 1997 and February 1998 (five months before the kidnapping) showed that Williams was not pregnant.
As for the kidnapped daughter, she still goes by the name Alexis Manigo and stands by her mother, even after meeting her birth parents. In a March 2017 letter, Manigo told Gloria, “Dear Mom, I love you no matter what. There is nothing or no one who can change that. I am by your side no matter what, 100 percent. I know this is the beginning stages of excuse me, hell. I am preparing. I am trying to mentally toughen up.”
In another letter, Manigo wrote:
I admit I am lost. I am stuck and I don’t even know how to move forward. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel real. Sometimes my days go by and well, it feels like I wasn’t even there, like I’m a spirit. I’m scared, Ma. Scared for you. Scared for life.
I’m scared for the next day because it might bring more bad news. ... I just need you to come home. I just need a hug. That’s it. Just something. I just miss you so much. It just kills me so much that I can’t even see you. I just want everything to go back to normal. I want you home. I need you here.
The tragic, decadeslong case will come to an end when Gloria Williams is sentenced by a Florida judge. Her plea agreement comes with a range of zero to 22 years in prison, bars Williams from writing any books or making movie deals while she is incarcerated, and protects her from prosecution in South Carolina or a federal court case.