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Jacksonville, FL - Twenty years after she took a newborn from a Jacksonville hospital and brought the baby to South Carolina to raise as her own daughter, Gloria Williams is telling the court why.
Williams says she was in an abusive relationship with a man, Charles Manigo.
“He took me to a place that was dark. My soul, my spirit was broke, my heart was broke,” she says.
She says Manigo wanted her to have a baby, and she thought that would help bring peace to their home, so she ultimately got pregnant. Williams says she miscarried as a result of the stress of the abuse, but she didn’t initially know it, because her body continued to change. She prepared her home for a baby and even had a baby shower, before realizing what happened- but even after she got it medically confirmed, she didn’t tell anyone.
In July 1998, Williams says she was leaving work, when she essentially went in to autopilot, and instead of stopping at her home, she kept driving. She says she doesn’t know why she drove down I-95 from her home in South Carolina, or what she was thinking when she ultimately got off the highway in Jacksonville.
“It was definitely not to take a baby, that’s for sure,” she says.
Defense: What was your intent when you got off I-95 in Jacksonville? #GloriaWilliams: "It was definitely not to take a baby, that's for sure". It was a long time ago, "I was broken", "I didn't feel good about anything". #KamiyahMobley pic.twitter.com/bEUmSX5HI0— Stephanie Brown (@SBrownReports) May 4, 2018
That blank slate continued as she walked in to the hospital.
“I really just cannot tell you what was on my mind. My head back then, I was a different person. My head was in a different place, I was just broken. I had a broken heart, I had a broken spirit, I didn’t feel good about myself, I didn’t feel good about anything,” she says.
Williams says she went and looked at the other babies and thought about the one she had lost, and then walked in to Shanara Mobley’s room, again telling the defense she wasn’t sure why.
Williams says she spent a lot of time talking with Mobley and helping her out. She was still wearing scrubs from her job, and while she told the prosecutor that she didn’t claim to be a nurse at the hospital, she admitted that she knew that’s what Mobley thought. Then the newborn, Kamiyah Mobley, was brought in to the room.
“I was thinking about, you know, maybe this baby could help Charles, that’s what I was thinking. It was like, she [Shanara] was so young, and she just wasn’t real sure about what she was gunna do, and just my mindset at that time wasn’t logical, it definitely wasn’t logical. But for what I was thinking at that time, it seemed right, it seemed right,” Williams says.
Williams would ultimately take the baby back to her home in South Carolina, renaming her Alexis Manigo, and telling Charles Manigo it was his baby. She says the baby did not bring peace to their home after all, though, and when she ultimately had a custody agreement with her two sons from a prior marriage changed because of the abuse, she decided to leave with Kamiyah as well.
“I just thought to myself, I can’t have him around her. I can’t do it, and she deserves better,” Williams says.
The defense walked Williams through a series of photos showing awards, celebrations and gatherings featuring Kamiyah while she was growing up. Williams further said Kamiyah was always cared for and provided for.
Things changed, when Kamiyah decided she wanted to start working. Williams says Kamiyah asked for her birth certificate and social security card, so she could finish all the paperwork on a job she had already lined up.
“I said, ‘you’re not my daughter’. I said, ‘I took you a long time ago’,” Williams says she told Kamiyah at that time.
Williams says she offered to turn herself in at that time, but Kamiyah told her not to. They went on another year and a half or so before the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office ultimately learned about Kamiyah and reached out.
“She wanted me to run. I told her I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t leave her, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t have a life like that. I was already in this for too long, and the truth was going to come out,” Williams says.
Williams says she had thought often about bringing Kamiyah back, but couldn’t do it.
“I think fear, I think just crippling fear. And then I fell in love with her,” Williams says.
The prosecutor questioned Williams to show she made choices and decisions along the way, to lead to where we are now. Williams agreed that how this went is the “worst” possible outcome for Kamiyah, and that she could have even left her anonymously at a hospital at any point when the child was young. Upon questioning from the prosecution, Williams said her motivation for taking the baby was not out of concern for how Mobley would raise her, but for selfish reasons.
Despite that, she is asking for forgiveness from all parties involved, including from Kamiyah.
"I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to hurt you. I just love that child so and I never meant to hurt you, I never meant to cause you any harm, any pain, any of that. And I’m sorry, and I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I tried to love you the best way I could, the only way I could. I tried to nurture you, but nothing can take away what I took from you. Nothing can replace that. I will always love you, always. And the joy that you brought me, I thank God the world can’t take it away from me. But you're not mine. Your mother and father are sitting right here,” Williams says.
And to Kamiyah’s biological parents- Shanara Mobley and Craig Aiken- she apologized as well.
“I pray every day, every day for the good Lord to renew your hearts, renew your minds, and to heal your hearts, and to give you the peace and joy that comes from knowing His word. I can’t explain where I was back then 20 years ago, I know I wronged you, and I’m so sorry and so many days, so many days, so many days, so many days I just wanted to pick that child up and say, ‘C’mon, let’s get in this car and go’, I just couldn't. I couldn’t. When I left Jacksonville, I didn't look back, I didn't know what you went through,” she says.
Williams is facing up to 22 years in prison, after pleading guilty earlier this year to kidnapping and custody interference of the child. She says, if she’s allowed to return to society, she wants to help young girls who are in abusive relationships. She intends to return to South Carolina to live with her husband, who supports her.
The prosecutor asked Williams what penalty she thinks she deserves for what she did. She said she knows she needs to be punished for her crimes, but isn’t able to say what that should look like. Instead, she says she will abide by whatever the judge decides.
The judge is taking everything under consideration, and will impose a sentence for Williams on June 8th.
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