Infant from Magee found safe; suspect in custody
By Margaret Harding, Matthew Santoni and Michael Hasch
Published: Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 2:10 p.m.
A frantic, 4½-hour search for a newborn taken from Magee-Womens Hospital on Thursday ended when investigators found the child and his accused abductor in the stairwell of a Downtown office building.
The family of Breona Moore, 19, of McKeesport grew suspicious of her Facebook postings about pregnancy and a child and contacted police when they learned of the 1 p.m. abduction at the Oakland hospital, city police Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki said.
Pittsburgh police found Moore hiding with 3-day-old Bryce Coleman in her arms inside the Investment Building on Fourth Avenue just before 6 p.m. Moore was charged with kidnapping and could face other charges, Stangrecki said.
He would not speculate on a motive for the abduction but said investigators would attempt to get medical records to determine if Moore ever was pregnant.
Rhonda King, 27, the boy's mother, was overjoyed when she was reunited with her son, said her sister, Talesha Woodson, who thanked everyone who prayed for the family as she left the hospital about 8 p.m.
“It was noisy. Crying, thanking God, just ecstatic,” said the Rev. Thelma Broughton, who was there for the baby's return. “We were all so grateful that they found the baby.”
Wearing a black dress as an officer led her into police headquarters in the North Side, Moore smiled and told reporters, “I hurt one person's feelings that I loved,” explaining that she was talking about a boyfriend.
“Mom, it's all your fault. Dad, you too,” she said. “It's a lot when you lose a child.”
Moore was arrested in June for disorderly conduct and again in December and January 2011 for fighting and theft.
A Hill District woman who said she was Moore's mother but would not provide her name said, “Just pray for my daughter and the family of the baby.” She declined to answer other questions at the family's home near Bedford Hill.
On her Facebook page, Moore posted a picture of a nude newborn on a hospital blanket, along with several exclamations about being thrilled to be a new mother. She told friends she had a cesarean section at Magee and that the infant son weighed 7 pounds, 22 ounces and was 19 inches long.
“Ooh My I Just Wanna Give Him So Much Love,” Moore posted on Monday. Throughout recent months, she had posted several photos of herself appearing increasingly pregnant, and posted an ultrasound photo in May.
Stangrecki said Moore's family did not believe she was pregnant and called police when they heard about the abduction.
“It was the tip that broke the case,” he said. “Miss Moore's family has been very cooperative.”
On Thursday, Facebook friends of Moore began posting comments.
“Come on now Bre really you stole a baby out of Magee that is crazy I knew something wasn't right,” one said.
The Investment Building is home to Allegheny County's Women, Infants & Children Program on the third and sixth floors. The Student Conservation Association is on the 21st floor, where police found a baby stroller with a melted Slurpee drink in the cup holder.
Stangrecki said police went to the building after Moore called family members and told them where she was.
Officers began searching the building and found Moore with the baby, hiding in a stairwell, just as city police were in the process of issuing an Amber Alert.
At about 9 a.m., Moore paid $16.19 in cash for a black scrub top from Life Uniform on Forbes Avenue in Oakland, employee Autumn Bullion said. She gave a fake first name for the company's mailing list, and told Bullion that she was starting her first day of training to be a nurse at Magee.
Charmaine King, the baby's grandmother, said Moore posed as a nurse and came in and out of the room several times, chatting with the child's mother and watching TV. Rhonda King, a mother of five, had never met the woman before, her mother said.
“She actually had the nerve — she stood there in the room and watched television with (my daughter), had a little conversation,” said Charmaine King, 54, of New Kensington.
Moore said she was taking Bryce for his final examination and wheeled him out, bed and all, Charmaine King said. The family and staff noticed the child was missing about 45 minutes later when the boy's father arrived with a car seat, went to the nursery and found the child gone, Charmaine King said.
“This was supposed to be a happy day,” she said. “I am so angry, and I am so sad, but you know what, I can't help but feel sorry for the lady who did it. ... I want her to be punished for what she did, but most of all I want her to understand what she did wrong.”
When questioned outside the room by another staff member, Moore claimed to be Rhonda King's sister, according to Charmaine King.
Another nurse, who worked for Magee and was familiar to Rhonda, had cut the baby's bracelet off earlier, she said.
“What on God's green Earth made that one nurse ... cut that baby's bracelet off so far ahead of time?” Charmaine King asked. “They just cut my baby's bracelet and stole him like a piece of candy.”
The child's disappearance prompted a hospital lockdown and a countywide search. Police took a Wilkinsburg woman into custody for questioning shortly after the incident but said she was not connected to the case.
The hospital immediately implemented a security alert called “Condition I,” which involves a lockdown of the unit. Staff are dispatched to every entrance and search any large bags, UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner said.
Patients leaving the hospital said security was extremely tight, with all but one entrance locked and staff checking IDs at the door. UPMC does not believe Moore was an employee, Zellner said.
Tray Jackson was in a room with his own child, 1-day-old Lisa, when he said guards came in to check all the patient rooms and say a baby was missing.
“I don't really understand — they have signs that say the babies can't go beyond that line; the babies all have ankle monitors,” said Jackson, 25, of the South Side. “If (the hospital) put the baby in that nurse's hands, how do you apologize for that?”
Crowds of workers from nearby office buildings gathered around to watch officers and K-9 dogs search vehicles in parking lots and garages.
“It's unbelievable,” said Barbara Benovitch, 60, of Forest Hills, who saw the police cars outside her workplace on Forbes Avenue. “I just feel so sorry for the parents. It's terrible. How can something like that happen?”
Staff writers Luis Fábregas, Bill Vidonic and Justin Merriman contributed to this report. Margaret Harding, Matthew Santoni and Michael Hasch are staff writers for Trib Total Media.
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