On an otherwise ordinary April afternoon, 30-year-old nurse Verna McClain walked up to Kala Golden in the parking lot of a Spring, Texas, pediatric clinic and shot and killed Golden as she snatched a 3-day-old child from her arms, according to police. The infant was recovered unharmed about six hours later and McClain was arrested. According to an indictment, she had recently had a miscarriage and wanted a baby she could pass off as her own to family and friends.
It's the type of freakish and horrible story that's bound to go viral, and it did. It's also the type of thing that's so bizarre it can't possibly happen very often. Right?
The FBI says otherwise. In a warning issued by the agency today, it calls violent infant abduction a trend, using Golden's murder as a prime example. There are other, less-violent examples. In January, a 32-year-old Florida woman befriended a younger new mother through a social networking site. She told the mother that her own newborn was sick in the hospital and was, at some point, invited to spend the night with the 32-year-old. The next morning, while the mother was showering, the woman kidnapped the 2-week-old infant. The child was later recovered.
The trend, the FBI says, is getting worse as hospitals have increased security to prevent infant abductions.
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"Now women who desperately want a child -- and are willing to go to extreme lengths to get one -- have to gain direct contact with their victims, and that's when things can turn violent," says Ashli-Jade Douglas, an intelligence analyst with the FBI's Crimes Against Children Unit.
Your typical baby-napper is a woman between 17 and 33.
"Usually they are unable to get pregnant," Douglas says. "Often, they will fake a pregnancy in the hopes of keeping a boyfriend or husband. ... They just want a child to raise as their own and will do anything to get one."
The FBI warns new parents to avoid displaying pink or blue balloons outside of one's home ("Doing so will advise random strangers that you have a new baby in the house or will soon," Douglas helpfully notes.) Parents should also be wary of people who seem "too interested" in their pregnancy or newborn.