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Baby found alive: Woman fakes pregnancy, kidnaps step-sister's baby

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Kayden Powell has lived an eventful life thus far, having been involved in a kidnapping, a multi-state police manhunt, and surviving the treacherous cold of an Iowa winter -- and he wasn't even a week old when it all happened. But an Iowa police chief found the baby in tote bag behind a gas station in Iowa, 250 miles from where he had been snatched from his parents' side the day before. And the woman -- Kristen Smith -- who abandoned him to the mercy of the frigid Iowa cold for more than 24 hours without telling authorities where the child was? Arrested, facing life in prison.

The Christian Science Monitor reported Feb. 8 that Kristen Smith allegedly kidnapped Kayden Powell from his bassinet in a home where they were staying in Wisconsin on Thursday, taking the infant while the child's parents slept nearby. But Smith's step-sister, Brianna Marshall, the baby's mother, soon discovered the child missing and immediately notified the police.

An hour later, Kristen Smith was being questioned by Iowa police. However, the baby was nowhere to be found.

Police in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin searched for the infant throughout the night on Thursday. But it was West Branch Police Chief Mike Horihan who, after deciding to check the area around a BP station where Smith was arrested, found the baby wrapped in blankets inside a crate beside a building about 500 yards from the station. The baby was found around 10 a.m., over 24 hours after the child had been reported missing.

"The police chief from West Branch, Iowa," FBI Agent G. B. Jones said, according to Reuters (via Yahoo News), "was checking areas right along the Interstate corridor. He heard the baby's cries and recovered the baby."

Jones said authorities, after determining that someone had left the family's residence and the child was missing, then reconstructed the path taken south into Illinois and west into Iowa. The FBI then asked law enforcement officers along that route to be on the lookout for Smith.

At first, Smith denied she knew the whereabouts of the baby. Arrested on an outstanding warrant from Texas, she maintained her silence on the matter until after the child was recovered. She then admitted to taking the infant.

"We are all very, very fortunate this baby is alive," Agent Jones said.

Authorities found a prosthetic pregnancy belly, baby clothes and a stroller when they first confronted Smith, documents revealed. An affidavit attests that a subsequent search of her cell phone elicited emails wherein she claimed she gave birth on Feb. 5. A search of her Facebook page also uncovered postings claiming she was pregnant.

U. S. Attorney John Vaudreuil said that Smith didn't appear pregnant, so a pregnancy test was ordered. The results were negative.

Federal prosecutors in Madison, Wisc., charged Kristen Smith with kidnapping Friday.

The baby, Kayden Powell, was taken to an Iowa City hospital, where he was later reunited with his parents. He was released Friday evening.

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