Kidnapping defendant: Dad asked her to take child
MADISON—A Colorado woman accused of kidnapping her half sister's newborn in Wisconsin and abandoning him in Iowa testified Wednesday that she took the 4-day-old at the father's request, knowing the parents would be moving in with her in the next few days.
Kristen Smith also testified that when she left the boy in a plastic tote outside in freezing temperatures, she put him by the front corner of a gas station so she could make sure his electric blanket was plugged in.
Smith, of Aurora, Colorado, is charged with kidnapping Kayden Powell on Feb. 6 and abandoning him in Iowa. A police chief found Kayden alive and well after the boy spent 29 hours in subfreezing temperatures.
Smith testified that her 18-year-old half sister, Brianna Marshall, had been having problems at home. Marshall's mother kicked her out of the house, Smith said, and with nowhere to go she hoped to move to Denver to be with Smith and go to college.
The plan was for Smith to drive home to Colorado, with Marshall joining her a few days later along with the baby's father, 23-year-old Bruce Powell, Smith testified.
They all spent the night at the home of the baby's great-uncle, Mark Bennett, in the Town of Beloit. Smith said she decided to leave at 2 a.m. to avoid driving through larger cities at hours when traffic would be worst.
Smith said she swaddled the baby and handed him to the father, but when she went to hug Powell goodbye he swayed unsteadily.
“He said, 'Here, take the baby,'” she testified. “I thought at first he meant, hold the baby while I get my feet together, and he said, 'Take the baby with you.' I said, 'Are you sure?' He said, 'Yeah,' and I was like, 'OK.'”
A few hours later she got a frantic call from Marshall, who said something about the baby and then hung up, Smith testified. Smith said she tried calling Marshall back 14 or 15 times, but the call wouldn't connect. When she finally got through, the great-uncle answered and handed the phone to a police officer who ordered Smith to pull over, she said.
Smith, who was already facing legal trouble in Colorado because of an outstanding warrant in Texas, said she began to panic. She was afraid authorities would launch an Amber Alert, so she planned to ditch the baby while police searched her vehicle. Then she could return home with Kayden and sort out the misunderstanding, she said.
She pulled into a gas station, wrapped the baby in an electric blanket and placed him in a plastic tote. Then she placed the tote at the front corner of the station, plugged in the blanket and drove to another gas station about 500 yards away, she said.
Prosecutors have alleged the baby was hidden behind the gas station, but Smith said that wasn't the case.
“I put him right in front, where the plug was,” she said. “If, God forbid, I don't come back, someone will have him.”
Smith, who also said she was sleep-deprived that night and not always thinking straight, completed most of her testimony in the morning. Prosecutors were expected to cross-examine her in the afternoon.
Smith, who has four children and a stepchild, said she was pregnant about the same time Marshall was, but Smith miscarried twins about a month before Kayden was born.
The prosecution wrapped up its arguments earlier Wednesday. Its case included testimony from the FBI agent who was with the parents when the baby was found. Special Agent Jodi Jewett said a colleague texted her a photo of the baby, and Jewett showed it to Marshall to confirm it was Kayden.
“I showed her the phone and she said, 'That's him; that's my baby,” Jewett said. “She whispered it, and she was crying, immediately.”
Jewett said she didn't get her phone back until she gave Marshall a printout of the photo about an hour later.