3-day-old reunited with family after being taken from Magee-Womens Hospital

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A 3-day-old boy abducted this afternoon from Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland was found safe downtown hours later, police said.

Sgt. Eugene Hlavac of the Pittsburgh police said the baby, Bryce Coleman, was found in the Investment Building on Fourth Avenue near Wood Street.

Police said the suspect, identified as Breona Moore, 19, of McKeesport, would be charged with one count of kidnapping. Other charges were pending.

Major Crimes Commander Thomas Stangrecki said at a late-night news conference that one of Ms. Moore's family members provided "the tip that broke the case."


Pittsburgh police quickly learned that Ms. Moore had provided a false name when she purchased some black hospital scrubs that morning -- a name that misleadingly led officers to their first person of interest. Police said they do not yet know how Ms. Moore acquired that name.

Ms. Moore had told her family members that she was pregnant and they the didn't believe her, the commander said. When one of them saw news coverage of the kidnapping, they contacted police.

Officers searched for Ms. Moore at several previous addresses, including her last address in McKeesport and had no luck. When Ms. Moore called home to say that she was in the Investment Building on Fourth Avenue, the family called police.

Police found the stroller and later found Ms. Moore hiding with the baby in a stairwell, the commander said.

He said that Ms. Moore does not appear to know baby Bryce or his parents and that police were still trying to piece together a motive late Thursday night.

Emergency medical personnel checked the baby and returned him to Magee.

"The baby abducted today from Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC has been examined by our physicians and found to be in good health," said a news release from Magee-Women's Hospital. "Mother and baby have been reunited."

Bryce is the fifth child for Rhonda King, 27, of the North Side.

"Thanks to each of you for your focus and compassion," said a statement to employees from Leslie C. Davis, president of Magee-Women's Hospital. "Our infant was reunited with his mother and father this evening at Magee. Truly a happy ending to a very difficult day.

"While we will review our security procedures, it was obvious that our training and internal drills prepared us to respond quickly in cooperation with both the Pittsburgh Police and the FBI. Everyone did a great job and we are grateful for a positive outcome," the statement said.

Police escorted a smiling Ms. Moore, wearing a black dress into headquarters on the North Side about 6:20 p.m. She laughed with camera crews while police walked her in.

Asked whether she was responsible for today's abduction, she said, "Some parts." She added that she had "hurt someone's feelings today" and later clarified that she was referring to a boyfriend.

"It's a lot when you lose a child," she said, providing no other details and saying that it "wasn't just me."

She also said, "Mom, it's all your fault ... and, Dad, yours too."

Pittsburgh police rolled a stroller with a blue Slurpee in the cupholder into headquarters on the North Side about 7:30 p.m. The suspect remained in custody.

Earlier, Pittsburgh police questioned a Wilkinsburg woman at police headquarters on the North Side but do not believe she is a suspect.

The baby was wearing a a white shirt and diaper when he was taken, police said.

According to a UPMC news release, a nurse came into the parents' hospital room at 12:34 p.m. as they were about to be discharged. The nurse removed the security tag from the baby.

Taliesha Woodson, Ms. King's sister, said the suspect, apparently some time later, told a nurse she was Ms. King's sister in order to gain entry to Ms. King's room.

Thelma Broughton of the South Side, who is Ms. King's grandmother, said the suspect, posing as a nurse, came into her granddaughter's room and said she had to take the baby.

"She said she was taking the baby to get a checkup, that she would bring the baby right back," Ms. Broughton said. "But she never came back."

Cameras from inside the hospital show a woman wearing black UPMC hospital scrubs and walking out the doors with the baby about 1 p.m.

"At 1:15, the father alerted the staff that the family was ready to depart and then it was determined that the baby was missing," according to a UPMC release. "Hospital staff immediately searched the unit and followed other internal security procedures. Police were called at 1:44 p.m."

Police initially described the woman as a stranger to the child's parents, black, about 25 years old, and about 180 pounds, wearing pink sneakers. She was wearing her short hair in a ponytail.

The baby boy's father, Ben Coleman, 28, of the North Side, said neither he nor the baby's mother, Ms. King, 27, know Ms. Moore or have any idea why their son was taken.

The woman bought the scrub top this morning from Life Uniforms, a store that sits inside the Oxford Building on Forbes Avenue, less than a block from the hospital.

Autumn Bullion, an employee at the store, said the woman was waiting in the building's lobby before the store opened at 9 a.m. this morning.

She wandered in and browsed for about five minutes before she came to the counter and asked Ms. Bullion for a large or extra large black scrub top with the UPMC insignia. Ms. Bullion rang her up for an extra large top marked $17.99. With a 10 percent discount because the woman said she worked at Magee, she paid $16.19.

"She started training today at Magee is what she said," Ms. Bullion said.

Police interviewed Ms. Bullion this afternoon and reviewed surveillance footage from the lobby.

Officials are expected to provide a photo of the woman and further details to reporters outside the hospital.

Cheryl Hoszowski said she was waiting for her daughter to deliver this afternoon when suddenly the nurses left the room.

"We were just sitting up there and see all the nurses running out," Ms. Hoszowski said. "They said someone took a baby."

"It's scary, especially when my grandson is getting ready to be born," Ms. Hoszowski said.

UPMC officials did not respond immediately questions about the hospital's procedures, but according to the Magee website, babies are "protected by a multi-level, state-of-the-art infant security system."

About 10,000 babies, an average of 30 a day, are born at Magee every year.

At Magee, security bands on babies are called "hugs" bands, and nurses and other hospital staff have identification tags with storks on them.

Otherwise, security is taken very seriously in the hospital's three postpartum units, according to an obstetrician working there who asked not to be named.

"I have never felt that there wasn't enough security," she said.

As soon as babies are born in the delivery room, they get two identification bracelets -- one on the wrist and one the ankle.

Occasionally, one drops off "if they're not put on snugly enough. That's why the baby has two ID bracelets."

If the identification band on the baby comes loose, alarms do not go off, she said.

"That was an issue with us," said Laxmi Devisetty, of Davison, Mich., who gave birth to her son at Magee in February.

Because her baby was 4 pounds 6 ounces, it fell off frequently, "and as soon as it came off I'd say do you mind giving him another bracelet and they would bring another one in."

Ms. Devisetty, like all mothers, received an identification bracelet as well. A third ID bracelet is given to one other person that the mother designates -- usually the father.

And then, when mother and baby get to the postpartum room, a security band with a chip in it is placed on the baby's other ankle. That's the band that triggers an alarm if it ever gets loose or cut: lights flash, doors lock and an announcement comes over the public address system that "a 'hugs' band has come loose."

One father of triplets, who spent two months in Magee's neo natal unit, said there were frequent false alarms.

"Everyone who came in identified themselves, and each nurse showed me their tag -- a photo ID with the stork on them," he said. "There was also a white board in the room, and every time a staffer came in, they'd write their name on there and their pager number."

There are a number of tests that require the baby be removed from her mother, the obstetrician said.

"If I take a baby out to do a circumcision, I identify myself to the mother, and when I bring the baby back, I match up the digits on the babies ID bracelet with the mother's."

She said that nurses on the postpartum units wear white scrubs. The women alleged to have taken the baby was reported to be wearing black scrubs.

"Babies in the postpartum unit are never left alone or given to anyone who doesn't have a matching ID band, period," she said. "If mom isn't there, and only grandma is in the room, I can't leave the baby with her. Only someone with a hospital identification badge can handle the baby -- nurses, obstetricians and pediatricians."

To get into the postpartum unit's nursery requires either going through a locked door or walking past the nurse's station where a unit clerk is on duty 24 hours a day.

The nursery has room for between 20 to 30 babies, but often only three or four babies, because most of the babies are with their mothers, and there is always a nurse present.

And everyone on the unit knows everyone else, the obstetrician said.

"If someone went into the nursery without identification, she would be noticed immediately."

When the mother and child are discharged, the bracelet is deactivated.

And while a family may sometimes opt to stay in the hospital, to stop at the cafeteria, for example, Ms. Devisetty remembers that "they didn't deactivate us until we were literally going out the door (of the postpartum unit). They did something on the computer and then cut our bracelet off."

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Sadie Gurman: sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Kaitlynn Riely contributed. First Published August 23, 2012 6:15 PM


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