Beyond the Headlines – The Carlina White Story

Little girl lost

On 4 August 1987 new mother Joy White had returned to Harlem Hospital with her nineteen-day-old baby named Carlina who had fallen ill. The baby was to stay the night so Joy went home to get some rest, ready to return the next day. And return she would – into a terrible nightmare situation that every parent dreads. It was that of infant abduction.

Carlina had gone missing from the hospital and it became obvious that she had been abducted from her bed. A massive search was immediately initiated by the New York Police, but hours turned to days and then weeks with no success. The distraught parents suffered daily devastation as hope began to fade.


Ann Pettway appears

In the meantime, later in August 1987, a young woman named Ann Pettway had arrived at her home in Bridgeport, Connecticut, 60 miles NE of New York City. She was carrying a baby girl that she proudly showed to her family as her own. She named the baby Nejdra and the infant became the youngest member of the family at that time. No one but Ann Pettway knew that her real name was Carlina White – abducted from Harlem Hospital a short time before.

Nejdra was raised in the Pettway family for many years until she became suspicious of her background when she was unable to obtain her birth certificate from her mother. Under close questioning Ann finally admitted that she was not the natural mother but claimed Nejdra was an abandoned child that she had raised.


An amazing discovery

By this time Nejdra had a daughter of her own and this prompted her to look for further information about her natural family. She initiated a search through data bases of missing children and found an image of Carlina White that looked very much like her own infant photographs. DNA tests followed that confirmed an incredible truth. She was in fact Carlina White and she had solved the mystery of her own kidnapping 23 years before.

This incredible discovery produced a worldwide sensation – it was the longest known period of a non-parental abduction in the United States where the victim was eventually reunited with the parents. A media frenzy followed that put the nearly -forgotten cold case on the front pages once more, with the entire event also generating massive international interest.


Family reunion

A wonderful reunion with her natural parents followed in January 2011 but problems emerged soon after. The Pettway family were shattered by the news and with Carlina still feeling loyalty to them she became estranged from her natural parents for a time, leaving them confused and upset.

Eventually Carlina resumed contact with both families and used the name “Nettie”, a name she chose herself as a compromise between the two others she had been given way back in 1987.


In February 2012, Ann Pettway was found guilty of kidnapping and sentenced to 12 years in prison.


By: R. Whitaker