An hour after a woman reported her newborn son missing from a home in Wisconsin, police were questioning her step-sister — found with a prosthetic pregnancy belly, baby clothes, and a stroller, but no baby, according to court documents.
It was more than 24 hours after Kayden Powell went missing before authorities discovered the infant, less than a week old, in a plastic storage crate outside an Iowa petrol station, miraculously alive and well despite frigid temperatures.
Kristen Smith of Denver had pretended to be pregnant, went to Wisconsin and stole her step-sister’s baby from his bassinet as his parents slept, court documents say. Then, as police closed in on her, she allegedly abandoned the infant.
Federal prosecutors in Madison charged Smith with kidnapping, hours after an Iowa police chief found Kayden. “He’s strong,” the baby’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.”
The discovery of the infant capped a frantic search that involved police officers in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.
It began after the boy’s mother, Brianna Marshall, called police at around 4:30am on Thursday to report her newborn had vanished from Bennett’s home, where she and the baby’s father, Bruce Powell, had been staying, according to police.
Marshall said Smith had left the house a couple of hours earlier to return to Colorado. While police were at the house, Smith called on her mobile phone. 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 her car but didn’t have the baby.
Police told her to pull over for questioning. An officer met her at a petrol &station near Interstate 80 in West Branch, Iowa.
She was arrested on an outstanding Texas warrant, but denied any knowledge of Kayden’s whereabouts, the affidavit says. A search of her phone revealed emails in which she said she gave birth on February 5, according to the court document. A search of her Facebook page turned up postings in which she claimed she was pregnant.
A pregnancy test that was administered while she was in custody came back negative, said US Attorney John Vaudreuil.
Dozens of officers had been searching for the child at possible stop-offs along Smith’s route from Wisconsin to Iowa. West Branch Police Chief Mike Horihan checked the area around a BP station about 500 yards from the station where Smith was arrested. He heard a baby’s cries and discovered Kayden in a closed storage crate beside the building. The baby was responsive and healthy.
He was taken to an Iowa hospital, and was reunited with his parents before being released.
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