This bizarre story had its happy ending just down the road from the Herbert Hoover birthplace. When a newborn baby was discovered missing from Beloit, Wisconsin, police began calling people who had been in the house. Kristen R. Smith, 22, of Denver, was the mother’s half sister. Her facebook page had recently shown pictures of her being pregnant, and had announced the birth of a child, about the same time as her half sister gave birth to a real baby. When Smith called back from Interstate 80, she denied involvement in the kidnapping. A Beloit police officer instructed her to stop at the next town and find a police officer to search her car and confirm her story.
Smith dutifully complied with this request, and pulled into Herbert Hoover’s hometown of West Branch, Iowa. But before flagging down a local cop, she pulled into the BP-Amoco station and left the baby, wrapped up in blankets, in a grey tote box behind a dumpster.
She then drove to the Kum & Go on the other side of the freeway, where she waved down a passing West Branch police officer and handed him her phone. After talking with the Beloit officer, the West Branch officer performed a search of the car. He didn’t find the baby, but he did find a “prosthetic pregnancy belly”.
Fortunately, the courts will not need to grapple with the issue of whether possession of a prosthetic pregnancy belly gives probable cause for a kidnapping arrest. Lo and behold, Smith was wanted in Texas, and the West Branch officer arrested her under the Texas warrant. Smith was taken to a warm jail, where she denied any knowledge of the baby she had left in the subzero temperatures only hours before.
An all-out search began for the missing baby. Friday morning, thrity hours after the infant had been left outside in the cold, the West Branch Police Chief was searching behind the BP station. He opened the tote box, heard crying, and found the baby inside.
The baby was taken to the hospital, but was miraculously unscathed.
For more details:
- West Branch Times, likely its biggest story since Hoover’s inauguration.
- Cedar Rapids Gazette, with links to criminal complaint and scanner audio