Her name is Carlina White. And her story is truly amazing and heartwarming!
Carlina White, who was just 19 days old when she was kidnapped, has been reunited with her biological parents Joy White and Carl Tyson, bringing an end to one of the most baffling missing person cases in the New York Police Department’s files.
Carlina, now 23, was admitted to Harlem Hospital on August 4, 1987 as she was feverish. Her mother Joy was just 16 years old at the time.
Joy said a woman dressed as a nurse at the hospital tried to comfort her as she worried about her sick baby in August 1987.
‘Don’t cry. Everything’s going to be alright’, the woman said to the 16-year-old.
But it was actually a ruse and the woman dressed all in white disappeared with the infant.
Authorities said that the woman had been seen loitering around the hospital for several weeks before the kidnapping.
Joy and Tyson won a lawsuit against Harlem Hospital in 1992 and received a $750,000 settlement.
The couple ended their relationship a year after their daughter disappeared and both went on to raise separate families.
A $10,000 reward was offered for the safe return of the baby girl, but years passed without her return. The parents never gave up hope. They took the money from the lawsuit settlement and established a trust fund for their daughter in the event of her return. Police searched for her kidnappers but never found enough evidence to charge any suspects.
Carlina was taken to Bridgeport, Conn., and, later, Atlanta where she was given a new name, Nejdra Nance, and was raised by a new family, unaware for 23 years that her biological family was actually in New York City.
Carlina had suspicions growing up that she was not biologically related to the family that raised her in Bridgeport, Connecticut. She said she had never been able to find her birth certificate.
When Carlina was unable to get a driver’s license and saw no biological resemblance to the people she was living with, she grew even more suspicious.
“I was exposed to a lot of stuff at a young age,” Carlina told The Post. “I never really talked about it. There were always drugs lying around. I used to see weapons.”
Her kidnapper and fake mom was an addict and was often in a drug haze.
“They have this moment when they get off the drugs — it seems to turn them into a monster,” Carlina said. “When she woke up, I used to get out of the house.”
And it was in that time period where Carlina said she began her unwavering hunt for the piece of her life she felt must be missing — the identity that her fake mother finally confessed stealing.
“Can I get my birth certificate?” Carlina said she asked her “mom” when she was pregnant at 16. “And she said, ‘I’m going to go ahead and get it,’ but she never bothered herself to get it,” Carlina said.
Refusing to be rebuffed, Carlina rifled through her mother’s purse and found a phony certificate.
“What is going on?” she recalled wondering, and when she confronted her “mom,” “She was upset, she was like, ‘Why did you go ahead and do that? You messed everything all up.’ “I thought, ‘what the hell do you mean?’ ” adding that later that week, her mother finally fessed up to the identity lie. “She was crying on the bed, saying ‘I’m so sorry,’ ” Carlina recalled. “Your mother just left you. She was a drug addict. She probably died of AIDS.”
But the lie did not convince Carlina — she pressed her search for Joy.
“I started looking outside the box,” she said.
She decided to take matters into her own hands and began browsing websites about missing children, including the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and AMBER Alert. A search for her birth year came up with a photo of a baby girl called ‘Carlina Renae White’ and a composite of how she might look in her late teens. These photos were eerily similar to ones present throughout the Georgia house she was raised in.
“It was like looking at a picture of my daughter,” she said. “I thought, maybe this could be it.”
She then called a hotline and eventually was connected to Joy White, who was forwarded a photograph of Carlina taken when she was still a baby by the family she had been brought up by.
Joy said she recognised her daughter instantly.
‘I was screaming, I was so excited,’ she said. ‘As soon as I saw those pictures I said, “That’s my daughter,” I saw myself in her’.
Even though she knew in her heart that the woman was her daughter, Joy contacted the New York Police Department to see if it could help investigate whether the woman was really Carlina White.
“It sounded legitimate and credible, so I had missing persons reach out to her,” said Detective Martin Brown, who fielded the call. DNA tests performed on Joy White, her ex-husband, Carl Tyson, and 23-year-old Nance matched, police said. Nejdra Nance was Carlina White.
Tyson said he did not need a DNA test to prove the young woman he fathered at 22 years old was his child.
‘I already knew in my heart that this was my daughter’, Tyson said. ‘All I could do is shed tears’.
Carlina, along with her 5-year-old daughter Samani, have now been reunited with her biological parents.
They can’t stop touching one another, they can’t stop looking at one another — their faces mirrors of each other’s past and future.
“When I see my mother, I see myself,” said the vivacious 5-foot-2 Carlina, who could not tear her eyes from Joy.
“I see the smile, the lips the chin, and the legs — we all have flat knees,” she giggled.
“I’m just amazed. I feel like I’m in a dream. I see my face in both my parents. I get my eyes from my father.”
Watching her grown-up baby girl, Joy burst with pride.
“I see myself, too,” she marveled. “I see my face, but with a smaller body,” sweetly hugging the daughter she had longed to hold.
“I see Carl in her eyes. I see my forehead, my eyebrows, my chin.
“She’s just like me,” Joy said, laughing.
“We like the same colors. We like our houses to be clean. We can’t go to sleep without the dishes being washed.”
The mom and daughter listened to one another’s memories of years missing so much.
“Carlina was a missing link and we have gotten her back in the name of Jesus, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah,” Pat Conway, White’s godmother, said.
As part of their investigation, police are talking to retired detectives who handled the case years ago. Because she was so young when she was kidnapped, it’s impossible for Nance to know if she has lived with the same family the entire time.
Police are now investigating the identity of the woman who first kidnapped the baby. Charges could still be brought against those who took baby Carlina as there is no statute of limitations for kidnappings of children under the age of 18 as long as the child is still alive.