TOWN OF BELOIT, Wis. — Federal prosecutors charged a Denver woman on Friday with kidnapping her half-sister’s newborn boy from a Wisconsin home hours after police discovered the infant in a storage crate outside an Iowa gas station, alive and well in single-digit weather.
Kristen Smith faces life in prison if she is convicted of kidnapping Kayden Powell, who is nearly a week old.
The baby was reunited with his parents and was on his way home last evening.
Kayden Powell’s mother discovered him missing early Thursday morning from his bassinet. Police found him tucked in a storage crate outside an Iowa gas station in frigid temperatures more than 24 hours later.
The newborn’s parents reported him missing early Thursday morning from the home in the Town of Beloit in southern Wisconsin where the family was staying. According to an affidavit accompanying the kidnapping charge, Smith is the mother’s half-sister and had come to visit the family in Wisconsin. She left the home early Thursday morning. Several hours later the mother reported the baby missing.
Police arrested Smith at a West Branch, Iowa, gas station on Thursday morning on an outstanding warrant from an unrelated case in Texas. The baby was not in the car, although she had baby clothes, a fake pregnancy belly, and a stroller with her, according to the affidavit. Hundreds of officers in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa, meanwhile, began searching possible stops on her route.
West Branch Police Chief Mike Horihan was searching the area around a BP gas station off Interstate 80 — about 500 yards from the Kum & Go station where Smith was arrested — when he heard cries that led him to a closed storage crate alongside the building. The baby was inside the crate, swaddled in a blanket and healthy and responsive.
West Branch is about 180 miles southwest of the Town of Beloit.
‘‘I had tears in my eyes,’’ BP station manager Jay Patel said, recalling his reaction to the police chief telling him that the infant had been found. ‘‘It’s good news but it’s sad, too.’’
It was unclear how long the newborn was outside in the cold. The temperature was about minus-10 Thursday night in the town and only in the single digits when the child was found. The infant was taken to a hospital for evaluation, Horihan said.