By Margaret Harding, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Friday, August 24, 2012
Breona Moore told police that she had a miscarriage and checked out several hospitals before deciding to steal a baby from Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC this week, investigators say.
But investigators are skeptical of the miscarriage claim because family and friends believe Moore is unable to have children and prone to lying. Police are looking into whether she has psychological problems.
“I’m upset because of what she did, but I think she needs help,” said Rhonda King, 27, of the North Side, who went through nearly five hours of terror on Thursday as police searched for her 3-day-old son, Bryce Coleman. “Normal people don’t take babies.”
Moore, 19, of East McKeesport was arraigned on charges of kidnapping a minor, concealing the whereabouts of a child, trespassing, impersonating a private employee, interfering with the custody of a child, unlawful restraint and reckless endangerment.
Her Facebook page shows what relatives reported to police in helping track down Moore and the child: Moore claimed to be pregnant and posted photos of a child she said was hers.
On Monday, she began casing hospitals, including West Penn Allegheny and UPMC facilities, investigators said. She was trying to see if she could gain access to the nursery and maternity ward without going through hospital security, they said.
At West Penn Allegheny, visitors cannot walk into the maternity unit without being buzzed in by security, spokesman Dan Laurent said.
Moore visited Magee on Wednesday and returned Thursday after buying a black scrub top from a nearby uniform store. She told a nurse that she was King’s sister and followed the nurse into her room, police said.
Moore watched as the nurse removed security wrist bands from King and the child to prepare them for discharge, police said. Once the nurse left the room, Moore told King that Bryce needed one more physical test and took him from the room, police said.
Moore put the baby in a zippered, red cloth handbag and walked out of the main entrance about 1 p.m., police said.
Police found Moore hiding in the closet of a Downtown building with the child in her arms about 6 p.m. and reunited the family.
“Words can’t even express how we feel that he’s home safe,” King said. “I didn’t even want to go to sleep last night. I did not let him go to that nursery. I said, ‘You are not taking him out of this room.’ ”
King said she was terrified that Moore, whom she does not know, was going to hurt the baby. She said she expected to be more angry at the woman than she is.
District Judge Carla Swearingen ordered Moore held in Allegheny County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail at an arraignment. She must undergo a behavioral evaluation.
Moore told police she suffered a miscarriage after 7 months of pregnancy. Saevon Josey, 19, of Beltzhoover said he met Moore in October, and she told him she was pregnant with his child in December.
“I thought she was lying because a doctor had told her she couldn’t get pregnant,” said Josey, who ended the relationship in April but stayed in contact with her. “I told her the only reason she was still in my life is because of the baby. I guess she stole the baby. She said she was in love.”
Josey said she had papers from a doctor that showed she was pregnant and he believes she miscarried. He visited her and met the baby he thought was his son on Thursday afternoon in the Investment Building on Fourth Avenue, Downtown.
“I was holding the baby like he was mine,” Josey said. “I put pictures of me holding him on Facebook like he was mine. I didn’t know about (the abduction) until after I left her. I didn’t think she was capable of this.”
If Moore had a miscarriage, the emotional pain can be unbearable, especially for someone as young as she is, psychologists and grief experts said.
“Usually people don’t go to those extremes, but just because she did doesn’t mean she’s a horrible person,” said Beth Walley, a bereavement counselor in Carnegie. “It means she didn’t know how to handle her grief and sense of loss.”
North Hills psychologist Nancy Mramor said grief alone does not explain Moore’s actions. A number of factors likely contributed, she said. Mental health problems could be a factor, as could any medications Moore was taking. Mramor also wondered whether Moore had a strong family support system.
“Grief is obviously a factor here, but you have to also look at why is this person’s grief as deep as it is,”Mramor said. “What else does she have in her life that might have led to this? Grief alone without mental health problems does not lead to this.”
Moore’s mother Lisa Woodbury told police Moore was telling people she had a baby. Woodbury said Moore is unable to have children so when she learned the boy had been abducted from Magee, she suspected her daughter might be involved. Moore ran away from home months ago and had not returned, Woodbury told police.
Moore lived in East McKeesport for the past few months. Neighbor Reggie Brown said he first saw her about a month ago.
“She kind of looked pregnant to me,” Brown said. “But she never mentioned it to me. I saw her sitting on the porch. I couldn’t tell if she really was pregnant. I heard them talking about having children on the porch.”
Moore’s brother Donnavan Gross used Facebook and worked with investigators to find Moore at the Investment Building, police said. When police found her, Moore told them “somebody gave the baby to me.”
Authorities approved an Amber Alert on Bryce’s disappearance and were about to issue it when he was found, said state police Lt. Anthony Manetta, an assistant coordinator of the state Amber Alert System. Manetta said state police need descriptive and specific information for Amber Alerts.
Moore came to the Investment Building to visit friends at the Student Conservation Association office. She participated in its youth leadership program for two years, said Walt Burlack, the regional vice president.
“I’m completely relieved the baby is back with his family, naturally, as is everyone at SCA,” Burlack said. “At the same time, I’m just concerned for everybody that was involved — the family and also Breona. We’re just wishing the best as this matter unfolds.”
Staff writers Michael Hasch, Chris Togneri, Adam Brandolph and Patrick Cloonan contributed to this report. Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.