Woman charged with abduction was pregnant

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

The woman charged with abducting a one-day-old girl from a Sudbury hospital was nine months pregnant and due to give birth on Monday, a family member said.

“We think she must have had a miscarriage or lost it somehow, and it really screwed her up emotionally,” Dean Presseault, whose wife is the woman's cousin, told The Globe and Mail.

On Thursday afternoon, an Amber Alert was issued after a baby girl was snatched from St. Joseph's Health Centre, triggering a massive police response and the blockade of all roads out of the Northern Ontario city.

Hours later, responding to tips generated by a hospital surveillance video, police say they found the missing infant at the home of 29-year-old Brenda Batisse and her common-law partner, Trevor Schram, 29, in Kirkland Lake, 315 kilometres north of Sudbury.

The couple appeared in a Northern Ontario courtroom Friday charged with child abduction.

Detective Sergeant Richard Witty of the Kirkland Lake OPP detachment confirmed that Ms. Batisse had been pregnant before her arrest on Thursday. He said Sudbury police are still investigating what happened to that pregnancy, and when.

Ms. Batisse grew up in Matachewan, a Northern Ontario hamlet west of Kirkland Lake. Until two years ago, relatives said, she worked in the band office at Timiskaming First Nation, east of the Ontario-Quebec boundary.

“She's a smart person,” said her uncle, Walter Renaud. “She's a very nice person. I was really surprised when I heard what had happened.”

Mr. Presseault said Ms. Batisse's daughters, aged 6 and 8, are with him and his wife.

The baby's parents also released a statement Friday.

“As everyone can well imagine, this has been a very busy time for us,” wrote the Sudbury couple, who have one other child. “We are happy that the situation is over and our child is safe.”

Police said that on Thursday at around 1 p.m., the baby's mother went to the bathroom and when she returned, her daughter was gone.

Around the same time, a member of the hospital's cleaning staff noticed a woman dressed like a nurse going out the 's main entrance with a baby. She alerted other staff.

The hospital issued a “code yellow” and went into lockdown. Police were called at 1:08. Blockades went up on roads leading out of Sudbury, and security video images of the woman were circulated.

“Although we didn't have the identity, we had an image,” acting Inspector Robert Keetch said.

Soon, Sudbury police began fielding calls from residents of Kirkland Lake who said they knew the woman in the picture, and from police officers in North Bay, Kirkland Lake and Timiskaming Reserve.

Ms. Batisse and Mr. Schram were “previously known” to police, Insp. Keech said.

Based on the tips, police tracked down Ms. Batisse and Mr. Schram at their Kirkland Lake home.

Ms. Batisse had been living with Mr. Presseault's twin brother, but recently moved in with Mr. Schram, Mr. Presseault said.

Citing a friend, CTV News reported last night that Ms. Batisse looked after her father until he died of cancer last year, and that she was diagnosed with cancer herself after his death.

Police said neither of the accused is connected to the baby's parents. They would not give details of their allegations against Mr. Schram.

The baby was surrendered without incident, Insp. Keech said, and was back in her parents' arms by 3 a.m.

Cathy Nahirny of the National Centre of Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va., said that most women who take someone else's child are of childbearing age and have either miscarried or are unable to have children. Many are afraid that their partners will leave because they lost the child.

“One of the prime motivations is that she wants to hold on to that partner,” she said.

Ms. Nahirny said the women will often pretend to be pregnant right up to their due date, then snatch a baby. Men are rarely involved, she said.

Since 1983, about 250 infants in the United States – between 12 and 18 a year – have been abducted by strangers, Ms. Nahirny said. About three babies have been snatched from Canadian hospitals in the past 15 years.

“It's extremely rare,” said RCMP Corporal Julie Gagnon of the national missing children's services.

Sudbury police said Friday that Ms. Batisse changed her clothes three times before she left the hospital.

She and Mr. Schram will be remanded to a Sudbury court on Monday.

Administrators at St. Joseph's Health Centre said they are reviewing their security policies, including some that staff do not always follow, such as wearing photo ID badges.

Police say they are still trying to determine how one, or both, of the accused bypassed road blocks that were erected within 45 minutes of the 911 call.