Pittsburgh police investigate departure of child from Children's Hospital

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A father and his daughter, who was reported missing from Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, have been located.

The man  walked into Pittsburgh's Zone 2 police station in the Hill District shortly before 6 p.m., according to an Allegheny County emergency dispatch supervisor.

About that time, two women, believed to be the father's sister and mother, walked into the station's back door with the 7-year-old girl. One woman said to reporters, "That's her father. He's got custody."

Zone 2 police Lt. Matt Lackner said Jacqua Barnett, 26, of Braddock, will be charged with assault and could face other charges. Police said the assault charge stems from an altercation Mr. Barnett had with the girl's mother at the hospital. She did not require hospitalization, police said, and he was taken to the Allegheny County Jail. 

The lieutenant said police were  interviewing Mr. Barnett and were still trying to sort through the details of a custody dispute involving Mr. Barnett and the mother of his daughter.

Emergency dispatchers received a call about 3:15 p.m. today stating Mr. Barnett had improperly taken his daughter, Amira, from the Lawrenceville hospital.

Police spokeswoman Diane Richard said in an email that the call seemed to involve a custody dispute between the girl's mother and biological father, who are not married.

"Zone 2 officers have spoken with the father by cell phone, with the father claiming that he has custody of the child," Ms. Richard said. "At this point the [police bureau] is trying to determine/verify who has custody or any legal authority of the child."

Ms. Richards continued, "The child had no visible injuries and there was no reason to believe that the child was harmed. The child was taken back to UPMC Children's Hospital for medical evaluation where she was reunited with her mother."

Crystal Shroyer, 31, of Connellsville, said she had been staying at the hospital for two days as her 14-year-old daughter underwent treatment for leukemia. Her daughter told her that she heard an announcement that a girl had gone missing on the floor, said Ms. Shroyer, who was in the shower at the time.

"I was scared to death that there was someone dangerous in the hospital, taking kids," she said.

Zone 2 police officers had attempted to persuade the man to come to the Hill District station with the girl, Ms. Richard said.

"The investigation remains active and information regarding this incident will be released as appropriate," Ms. Richard said.

A UPMC spokeswoman referred questions to the police.


First Published December 19, 2013 4:08 PM

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