Aunt arrested in missing baby case

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Andrea Anderson and Nick Crow
Friday, February 7, 2014

TOWN OF BELOIT— Kristen Smith, the aunt of newborn Kayden Powell, was arrested late Friday on federal kidnapping charges in connection with the disappearance of the child, officials said.

Iowa police Friday morning found Kayden Powell alive in a tote bag, wrapped in blankets outside of a gas station near Interstate 80 in West Branch, Iowa.

The complaint against Smith, filed Friday by U.S. Department of Justice Attorney John W. Vaudreuil, alleges that Smith took the infant from a town of Beloit home and transported the child to Iowa.

She was arrested in Iowa on Thursday on an unrelated fraud charge and is being held at the Cedar County Jail in Tipton, Iowa.

The gas station where the baby was found is near where Smith was taken into custody.

If convicted of federal kidnapping charges, Smith faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison.

Authorities earlier said Smith had left the town of Beloit home about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, which was about the same time the baby was last seen. Smith is a Colorado resident and was visiting Beloit after the baby was born, Kopp said.

The baby was reported missing at 4:34 a.m. Thursday after the mother woke and saw her child was not in its bassinet. The mother, father and baby had been staying at the home of the baby's great-grandmother.

Police on Thursday morning called Smith's cellphone while she was driving on the Interstate and told her to pull over. Law enforcement then took her into custody on the Texas warrant.

It is not clear if Smith left Kayden at the gas station before or after police contacted her Thursday. She was given a polygraph test regarding the infant's location after her arrest and failed the exam, officials said.

The criminal complaint filed against Smith on Friday alleges that her cellphone contained emails in which she stated that she had given birth Feb. 5.

Law enforcement found a prosthetic pregnancy belly inside Smith's vehicle, according to the court documents. She had also posted on her Facebook page that she was pregnant.

The document says she did not appear pregnant while in Wisconsin and did not appear pregnant when she was apprehended. Authorities then tested her for pregnancy, and the results came back negative.

West Branch Police Chief Mike Horihan found the baby at 10:15 a.m., town of Beloit Police Chief Steve Kopp said in an 11 a.m. news conference.

The baby is in good health, despite being outside in the cold, Kopp said.

G.B. Jones, the FBI's acting agent in Milwaukee, said the baby is doing "very well" and called the infant "amazingly resilient."

The newborn was outside for an unknown amount of time and is undergoing a medical evaluation at a hospital in Iowa, Jones said.

West Branch police were canvassing the area, as were other police departments assisting in the case, when the baby was found.

Horihan found the infant after hearing the baby's cries, Jones said.

He called Horihan a hero.

The mother, Brianna Marshall, 18, and father, Bruce Powell, 23, both of Beloit, are anxious to see their son, and authorities are "focused on re-uniting mother and child," Jones said.

More than 100 members of several agencies across Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa assisted the town of Beloit police and FBI in the case. 

Chief Kopp said a missing child case is one that "no one wants to get," and that no matter the community's size, it has the "same effect on the community."

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