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Kidnapped at Birth

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Netty, reunited with Joy and Carl in February 2011.  

Netty, Joy seemed to be saying, was less interested in reuniting with her parents if the trust fund was gone. But Joy also told the Today show that she realized Netty was attached to Ann and Ann’s relatives. “I do have to understand that that is her family, you know. She was brought up by them. I’m her mom, and she is—you know, she’s just like so—it’s just so hard to explain. She’s with that family, and that’s all she knows.” Joy also said she very much wanted Netty in her life. “I’m her mother, and it hurts not to have a relationship with her. It really hurts. And I want my daughter back, I want her here, and I want her to spend time with me and the family, and I want her to get to know me. It’s like we’re two strangers. We don’t know each other.”

Netty didn’t comment on what Joy said at the time. But she now says she was furious about it. “The people who knew me when I was going through this and knew how passionate I was to find out who my parents were, they know this stuff is not based upon cash,” she says. At the same time, Netty acknowledges she asked Joy about the trust. She says that a lawyer who was advising her at the time suggested she ask about it. She says she didn’t feel comfortable bringing it up in person, so she decided to text Joy about it. “I asked her, and she said something about how whatever people were saying [about Joy and Carl still having a lucrative trust fund] was not true. So I was like, ‘Okay.’ But I guess they took my ‘Okay’ as, like, you know, ‘Whatever.’ ” Joy’s comments left Netty feeling betrayed—that she made them at all, and that she made them publicly and not just to her. “How dare you go on TV and say something like that?” Netty says she asked Joy on the phone after the show. “I never asked y’all for anything.”

In May, Robert Baum announced that Carlina White would “be supportive in every way” of Ann Pettway in her kidnapping case—even testifying on her behalf if needed. By July, Netty had cut off all contact with Joy and Carl.

Ann Pettway has spent the last nine months in a federal detention center in Manhattan. While an FBI agent says the statements Ann made about miscarrying and desperately wanting a baby essentially amount to a confession, Baum intends­ to argue that there is no physical evidence placing Ann at the hospital that night. The judge had hoped to get the trial started this fall, but that now seems unlikely. Baum wants a chance to investigate other possible suspects and leads. He just received the complete case file from prosecutors, and was recently given time to track down Lucy Brockington. “Several witnesses at the hospital at the time picked out Lucy Brockington’s photo as the person in the nurse’s uniform they believed was responsible for the crime,” Baum says. “One of those witnesses who picked her out at the time was Joy White.” Brockington matches the police description of the woman who posed as a nurse: black, between 25 and 30 years of age, about five foot eight and 180 to 190 pounds. Of course, so does Ann Pettway.

When I ask Netty if she would ever want to visit Ann in jail, she makes a face. “I don’t really know,” she says. “I don’t like jails, and I don’t like hospitals. That’s not what I do, and I’m not going to get out of my comfort zone.” Would she ever communicate with Ann again? “Yeah,” she says. “But it’s going to take a little while for that to just—when I’m ready to, I know that I will. Just not at this moment.”

The hard part, she says, is talking about Ann with Samani. “She’s very close with my daughter. She did more stuff with her than I think she did with me. She took her trick-or-treating. Christmas, Halloween, school. She provided like a grandmother’s supposed to. My daughter still talks about her now. But when it comes to her being incarcerated, I can’t say that to her yet. She doesn’t know the story. I just say she’s on vacation.”

Back in Atlanta, at her lawyer’s office, Netty tells me she has switched her cell number several times, scrapped her Facebook and Twitter accounts, and stopped returning e-mails from practically everyone. Even the therapist she’d started seeing had no way to reach her for a time. She says she spent the summer with Samani, working some in a hair salon and making vague plans to study photography and filmmaking. “I have to get clarity on who I am. I have bills to pay. I have to teach my daughter. I’m trying to build my own career. I can’t just sit here and dwell.”


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