Gloria Williams pleaded guilty to kidnapping Kamiyah Mobley from a Jacksonville hospital when she was an infant in 1998. On Friday, she took the stand during her sentencing hearing for those crimes. She painted the picture of a life with the daughter she called Alexis Manigo as picturesque with a rocky start.
In 1997, Gloria Williams was dating Charles Manigo. She had two sons from her previous marriage and they all lived together. She said that her relationship with Manigo started off good but he began to verbally and physically abuse her.
“After the abuse and stuff, I think the stress from all of that, it just didn’t let the pregnancy go on -- I miscarried." Her abusive boyfriend said having a baby would make him stable, according to Williams.
She said her body still experienced the symptoms of pregnancy, her breasts and belly still seemed to grow, which is medically known as pseudocyesis.
On July 10, 1998, the day she drove to Jacksonville and kidnapped Kamiyah, Williams said she didn't know what had taken over her.
“It was definitely not to take a baby, that’s for sure. I don’t know. I can’t, I mean it was almost 20 years ago. I can’t tell you. I really just cannot tell you what was on my mind," she said.
“I was headed home, I took 17, when I got into Walterboro, I don’t know, it just felt like I was on autopilot, and I just headed south. I don’t know, I had no plans, nothing. I don’t know It just felt like I was on auto pilot. I was depressed, I was extremely just depressed and – because my life was out of control, I lost everything. Well, I didn’t lose, at the time I didn’t lose the baby but I lost the boys, and my life was just out of control."
She said she went to the floor where the newborns were and looked at them and thought of the baby she had lost. Despite saying prior she had not known she lost the baby, Williams did say that she had an ultrasound about a month prior to July 10 and was told she had lost the baby, but she had not accepted it completely.
Wearing her scrubs from her job at a nursing home in Walterboro, she entered the room of 16-year-old Shanara Mobley."
“I didn’t know Shanara, I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know who’s room I was entering.”
Williams said she and Shanara spoke for some time and she helped Shanara change into a new hospital gown. She said Shanara was concerned about how she would care for her child, they talked for a while about that.
“I don’t know. ... I was thinking about, maybe this baby could help Charles [Manigo]. That’s what I was thinking. Then after me and Ms. Mobley was talking it was like she was so young and she was just, wasn’t real sure about what she was going to do, and just my mind said, it wasn’t logical, it definitely wasn’t logical, but for what I was thinking at this time it felt right."
She took the newborn and renamed her Alexis Kelli Manigo.
"Alexis was a doll baby, she was a joy. My mind was just – my mind was gone, it really was. I just thought, you know, this would bring peace to the house, the abuse would stop, the violence would stop and it didn’t," she said. "I just thought to myself I can’t have him around her, I can’t do it, she deserves better and that’s when I had enough courage to leave the relationship. By this time, I had lost everything.”
Williams said she left Manigo and she raised Alexis as her own child. She went to preschool and kindergarten.
At 16 years old, Alexis wanted to get a job at Shoney's. She told Williams she needed her birth certificate and social security card. Williams said it was that time that she sat Alexis down and told her about the truth behind her birth and her abduction.
"I started crying and she was like 'What’s wrong?' I said 'Sit down I have to tell you something,'" recounted Williams. "We were outside on the front porch and I told her, I said, you’re not my daughter. I said I took you a long time ago. She didn’t understand. I guess when I started crying, that’s when she knew like, this isn’t mom, this isn’t her – something’s wrong, something’s truly wrong. It was just too much and I told her then and she still didn’t believe me and I got on the phone and I punched in some websites I guess and I showed her, and she said that does look like me. I said yeah, that’s you.”
Williams said she pulled up a flier about Kamiyah being a missing child out of Jacksonville. Williams said she offered to turn herself in but Kamiyah told her not to.
At 17, Alexis graduated from high school and had plans to attend college. The mother and daughter toured a local college to get a feel for the campus.
In January 2017, Williams received a call from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office stating that they wanted to see both Williams and Kamiyah. When they got to the office, a DNA sample was collected from Kamiyah.
“She wanted me to run. I told her I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t leave her. I couldn’t do it. You know? I couldn’t have a life like that. I was already in this for too long.”
Emotional footage of Kamiyah and Williams hugging before police interrogate Williams made Williams break down on the stand.
“I was comforting her," Williams said of her embrace in the video. "I’m talking to her, I'm saying goodbye to her, I'm telling her to behave herself, to be respectful to her family."
Williams said she considered returning Kamiyah for years.
“I think fear, just crippling fear and I fell in love with her, I just fell in love with her. I fought with myself for so many years ‘bring her back, bring her back just bring her back’ but it would be something she’d do or something she’d say and I’d be like you know, I just have to nurture her, I just, I don’t know," Williams said. "I fought with myself for years with that question to try and bring her back. Especially when it first happened. Because I guess I didn’t know what state of mind I was in. For the baby shower, she had received two baby bags and I always kept one of them packed fully with formula and pampers because I just knew they would come to pick her up that week because I knew I wasn’t no cri—this was something I never did, this was out of character and I was going to get caught and I knew it. I thought I was going to get caught that week. For a good six months, it sat in the closet because I knew someone was going to knock on the door, so I kept it so I knew she would be well okay on her way back to Florida.”
Williams said she wanted to reach out the Aiken and Mobley families, Kamiyah's biological parents. She was advised against that action by her attorneys but she was given the floor to talk to them:
“Oh god yes. Ms. Mobley, Mr. Aiken, I have wanted to apologize to you when you were in South Carolina. I pray every day, every day, for the good lord to renew your hearts, renew your minds and to heal your hearts and to give you the peace and joy that comes from knowing his word I don’t, I can’t explain where I was back then, twenty years ago I know I wronged you and I am so sorry, so many days, so many days, so many days... so many days I just wanted to pick that child up and say come on let's get in that car and go, I just couldn’t. I never – when I left Jacksonville, I didn’t look back. I didn’t know what you went through I can only imagine what you went through, I can only imagine but I never in my life, never in my life meant to hurt you, meant to hurt either one of you. God knows I didn’t, God knows my heart but I sid hurt you and for that I am so sorry. I know I can't give you back the 18 years, I now that, if I could I would. If I could give you a new heart Ms. Mobley I would, if I could give you a new heart Mr. Aiken I could. But I can’t do that I don’t have the power or authority to do that. I know you hate me right now and I know you’ve heard what people have said about me but I done something wrong and this is probably the only thing I’ve ever done wrong. And I hope one day I hope one day that you can find it in your heart to forgive me for what I’ve done to ya’ll. I don’t – I don’t know what more to say. But I wanted, I wanted to reach out to you before this. Because I know you was hurting and I know you wanted answers. You know, I just kinda prayed that you’d come down to the jailhouse to see me or whatever to ask because I would have told you, even though my attorneys told me not to, I think if you had come that far I would have had to tell you. But I am so sorry and I tell you, I – I hurt you, I hurt Mr. Aiken and your families. And for that I – I am deeply sorry. I am so sorry.”
And to Kamiyah:
“As for Kamiyah, As for Kamiyah I never meant to hurt you," Williams said, crying harder than she has during any of her testimony. "I never meant to hurt you. I just love that child so, I never meant to hurt you I never meant to cause you any harm, any pain, and I’m sorry and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I tried to love you the best way I could, the only way I could I tried to nurture you. But nothing could take away from what I took from you. Nothing could replace that. I will always love you, always. And the joy that you brought me, I thank God that the world can’t take it away from me. But you’re not mine, your mother and father are sitting right here.”
And to Williams' own family:
“I thank God, I thank God, I thank God, that he loves me so much that he allowed me to have a family like ya’ll. Because it’s only him that gave ya’ll to me. I am so sorry I hurt ya’ll as well. I am so sorry. That I brought this little girl in your life and for you to be taken away from ya’ll as well too I’m sorry for deceiving ya’ll. I hope one day ya’ll can find it in your hearts to forgive me for the pain I put ya'll through and the embarrassment, My mom, my dad, I love you guys so much my husband, my children, my grands – my sisters and my brothers, my nieces and nephews my aunts and uncles and my church family, my friends, I’m so sorry.”
During her cross-examination, the prosecutor, Alan Mizrahi , pulled no punches. He pointed out that her 'little wrong doing' was torture to the Mobley and Aiken families for 18 years.
He called her actions selfish. Williams was calm, answered his questions even when they painted her in a poor light except when Mizrahi tried to claim that her love for Kamiyah was a lie perpetrated by 'brainwashing.'
“I wouldn’t use the word brainwashed," said Williams. "I meant that’s what she knew, that’s all she knew.”
"Instead of brainwashed would you rather say every waking moment was a lie?" asked Mizrahi.
“The love was not a lie, true love is not a lie," said Williams.
"When it’s based off a falsehood it is," said Mizrahi.
“It’s not,” Williams replied.
The prosecutor points out that Williams made no attempt to leave Manigo and when she kidnapped Kamiyah, Manigo was in jail so he 'no longer had a hold over her.' To which Williams agreed, but she said the damage was already done.
He questioned why her family and friends did not question her birth story. Was it not odd that she would give birth without calling anyone? Williams maintained that she said she went in on her own and came out of the hospital healthy the next day.
“Nobody knew, nobody, that was my secret. Nobody knew," said Williams.
Mazrahi said that the move to keep Kamiyah all those years was selfish.
"Because I loved her. I wouldn’t say it was selfish," said Williams.
“Other than I’m sorry, I’m sorry about all of this. I’m not a bad person. I did a wrong thing, I did if I could do it all over again, no I wouldn’t do it. I thank god for his grace and his mercies because he has helped me through this. I just wanna try and make it right if its possible. I just wanna try and make it right," said Williams.
She was asked by prosecution what she thought she should serve for this crime. She said she couldn't answer that question but admits her crime was wrong and she deserves to be punished.
Court will be meeting again on June 8 to hand down a sentence.