In 1987, Carlina White, the daughter of Joy White and Carl Tyson was admitted to the Harlem Hospital Centre in New York. Later that night, after her parents had left and the nurse shifts were changing, she was abducted. She was only 19 months old. Surveillance cameras in the hospital weren’t working, so the description of the suspect—a woman who had been seen dressed as a nurse a few weeks before, but who wasn’t a hospital employee—was supplied by Joy and Carl, who had been comforted by the woman earlier that night.It wasn’t until 23 years later that they saw their daughter again. For this and other reasons, Carlina White’s case remains an extraordinary example of child abduction. Here’s why. She was returned to her parents23 years after she was first taken by her abductor, Ann Pettway, Carlina White (or Netty, as she now goes by) was reunited with her parents. To this day, she is the only child abducted by a non-family member to be returned to her biological family after such a long period of time.
There’s still some confusion over her abductorIt might have been Ann Pettway, unable to have her own children, who raised Carlina (renamed Nejdra Nance) as her own, but there’s still a question over whether she was the woman seen at the hospital that night. Another woman, Lucy Brockington, was suspected at the time, but the police decided she had an alibi. There is still speculation that Brockington—who was picked out by a number of witnesses at the time— is the one who took Netty, giving her to Pettway later, but she has never been arrested in connection with this crime.
Netty solved her own caseNetty may never have been reunited with her parents if it hadn’t been for her own sleuthing. Getting pregnant in 2005, she needed to find her documents in order to benefit from free prenatal care, but Pettway was unable to produce her birth certificate. Pettway originally told her she had been abandoned at birth, but after searching the internet for missing children cases and eventually calling the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s hotline, Netty discovered the truth, identifying herself by a birthmark.
She has expressed loyalty to her kidnapperUnlike other victims of abduction, even after she’d discovered the truth and been reunited with her parents, Netty didn’t distance herself from her kidnapper. Instead, she chose to stay loyal to the woman that had raised her, even agreeing to testify on Pettway’s behalf at her trial. She became estranged from her biological parentsThe reunion between Joy, Carl and Netty wasn’t the end to the story, either. Although the family did come together at first, the intense pressure of the media scrutiny and a misunderstanding over a trust fund that had once existed for Netty drove her away from her parents once again. However, after several months had passed, Netty contacted her parents once again and, then somewhat removed from the public eye, they were able to move on.