A young couple walked in on the small lunchtime crowd at Jim’s Friendly Tavern, eager to show off their newborn to friends.
Outwardly, diners were polite, smiling for the happy pair in the small Sheridan, Mo., tavern. Inside, though, their suspicions boiled, for the woman had been telling people for years that she was pregnant, and in recent months had even showed a sonogram of what she said was her baby.
Their suspicions may have been correct: FBI agents were waiting for the couple later Thursday when the man and woman walked into a relative’s home in High Ridge carrying Carlie Shockey, by then 31 hours old.
Amanda Tull, 18, and Buddy Hall, 30, were charged Friday with kidnapping, accused of snatching the baby Wednesday night from her sleeping mother’s room at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Investigators said the couple then drove 100 miles north to show the baby off in their hometown of Sheridan, and took her at least 250 miles more to High Ridge, south of St. Louis.
“People didn’t believe her. But when she was here they had to, because she was here with a baby, lookin’ so cute,” said Jim Harrell, the tavern’s owner. “Then everybody got to thinking about it, with the radio reports about the stolen baby and all. We should’ve picked up the baby and called the law.”
The couple’s image had been captured on hospital surveillance cameras. The news stories and the release of the video to TV stations had prompted a blizzard of tips, including one from the Sheridan tavern owner and another from the couple’s relatives, who told the FBI the man and woman were heading to High Ridge.
The FBI decided against trying to stop their car for fear of an accident that could harm the baby. Instead, agents and a couple of paramedics waited at the relatives’ house for three or four hours.
The baby appeared to be in good condition and was reunited with her mother, Trish Shockey, Friday. The mother cried when she saw her dark-haired daughter, and the whole family is “delighted and overjoyed to have the baby back,” said her sister, Melissa Brewster.
Tull and Hall were being held in St. Louis without bail.
Their arrest ended a bizarre trek that started at a North Kansas City, Mo., hospital, where a security camera caught the suspects waiting outside a maternity ward - a hint that the couple might have been “shopping” for a baby at hospitals, the FBI said.
Less than three hours later, a University of Kansas Medical Center camera recorded the couple on that hospital’s first floor. The suspects then headed to the fifth-floor maternity ward, where they entered the mother’s room carrying a Mickey Mouse blanket to discuss a raffle in which she could win baby clothes, officials said.
After the mother, who was still sedated, nodded off, the baby was gone, and minutes later a camera recorded the suspects leaving through the hospital’s main entrance, carrying the infant just ahead of police.
Hours later, as hospital and FBI officials pleaded on live television for the couple to take the newborn to a hospital, the couple were headed toward Sheridan in northwest Missouri.
The couple spent about 10 minutes at the tavern showing off the infant they called Reba Anne. The couple told patrons that Tull had given birth to twins in another city but that the other twin, a boy, was still in the hospital because of health problems.
Tull was twice arrested and jailed in Iowa in recent months on charges of theft and check forgery. Both cases are still pending.
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