JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (news4jax)– A baby boy who was allegedly abducted by a 19-year-old woman posing as a Florida Department of Children and Families worker is back home with his family.
Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford announced just before 7 a.m. Wednesday that 3-week-old Melvin Duclos was found safe and unharmed. Later in the morning, he said police had arrested Jasmine White on charges including kidnapping.
Rutherford said a single fingerprint found on forged paperwork left at the baby’s home led them to the woman’s identity. Police said they found her with the baby at White’s mother’s home.
Rutherford said White told investigators she had faked a pregnancy and needed the baby to support the story.
The Amber Alert issued late Tuesday night was canceled, and, after a quick checkup, Melvin was reunited with his parents.
“It’s a miracle from God,” the child’s father, Augustin Duclos, said.
Duclos told Channel 4 that a woman he and his wife first saw at Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center showed up at their house later in the afternoon.
“On our way out (of the hospital), we see the young lady — the black lady — and she got on the elevators with us to go downstairs. Nobody think about anything, so we just come home,” Duclos said. “When we get here, the young lady parked right behind us.”
After identifying herself as a DCF employee and showing a badge, she gave the father papers saying she was taking custody of the child due to suspected child abuse.
“She convinced them that she was conducting an investigation and that if she did not turn over the baby, police would be called,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford said White’s juvenile arrest in 2008 on auto theft charges allowed the crime lab to quickly identify her. He credited the help of the U.S. Marshals Office, the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement in quickly taking White into custody.
“Their help was invaluable,” he said.
Eleven hours after the search for Melvin began, he was found safe at White’s mother’s Westside home, where White was arrested.
“They were all in bed, the baby was being cared for and everyone was asleep when we knocked on the doors,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford said White admitted the crime, but her mother didn’t know anything about it. He said her mother told them her daughter told her she was pregnant and while in Tampa she gave birth to a baby girl.
Rutherford said when detectives arrived at the home Wednesday morning, they asked the White’s mother to change the diaper, and when she did, she was shocked to see the baby was a boy.
Rutherford said he believes White lied about the gender of the baby so people wouldn’t connect the dots.
Just after noon, White was booked into the Duval County jail on charges of kidnapping, fraudulent use of personal identification and interference with child custody. She was being held without bond pending a first appearance before a judge, which is expected on Thursday morning. Police said White had an outstanding warrant on charges of fraudulent use of personal identification information unrelated to this case. That charge carried a bond of $20,000.
Police spent Tuesday night searching the Westside neighborhood around the family home in the 6200 block of North Ironside Drive. About 10:30 p.m, police released a photo of the Duclos and a description of woman who took the child and the car she was driving.
Just before midnight, an Amber Alert was issued for the missing child.
Chief Rick Graham, of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, said the Duclos family took Melvin with them for a checkup for the mother at Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center. As the family was leaving about 12:45 p.m., White was seen on hospital surveillance video following the Duclos family.
Graham said the family left the hospital, ran some errands and got home at about 4:45 p.m. The woman had followed them to their house, posing as a DCF worker, and convinced the baby’s father there was an ongoing investigation and that she needed to turn over her child.
He said the parents felt uneasy and realized something wasn’t right, and called police a couple hours later.
Early Wednesday, Channel 4 learned from neighbors that the Ducloses are from Haiti and spoke with a thick accent. It wasn’t known if a language barrier might have contributed to the woman’s ability to take the child.
John Harrell, of DCF, said the department found out from police Tuesday night that the baby had been taken from a home.
“We’re obviously very concerned. We’re very shaken by this,” Harrell said. “This is something we want to emphasize to the public: This is not how we do things. No one from this agency is ever going to go to a door and take a child.”