Mom 'overjoyed' after tot's return Weekend ordeal ends as 14-month-old girl turns up unharmed.

October 08, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff

When Sheryl Turner drives around today with her daughter, Jessica Alexandra "Jessie" James, the 14-month-old girl will sit, as she normally does, in a blue-and-white car seat in the front of the car.

That car seat had not been used since Friday when Turner, 37, asked a longtime friend to take Jessica to a baby sitter. From that time until yesterday evening, Turner, of the 2000 block of Dukeland St., had not seen her daughter.

Jessica was found at 6:09 p.m. in an apartment in the 2300 block of Winchester St., where the friend had taken the child, police said. An anonymous tipster, who recognized Jessica from her photo that was displayed in the media, phoned police and told them where the child was.

"I was just overjoyed," Turner said when she got her daughter back.

Christy Ann Pankey, 39, of the 6500 block of Fritchie Road in Columbia, was arrested and charged with abduction in the case, police said.

Pankey is being held at the Women's Detention Center at the Central District station pending a bail hearing today before a District Court commissioner, police said.

At the Western District station where Turner and her daughter were reunited, Pankey "seemed very unconcerned. She waved at me and smiled, like nothing happened," Turner said.

About 3 p.m. last Friday, Pankey dropped Turner off at work at the city's Towanda Recreation Center, Turner said.

Pankey was instructed by Turner to take Jessica to a baby sitter on nearby Presstman Street.

Pankey, whom Turner described as a family friend for 21 years, and Jessica drove away in Pankey's 1981 Toyota Corolla.

"Since then, no one has seen her," Turner had said yesterday about 4:30 p.m. "She's like . . .vanished."

"I'm a nervous wreck," she said. "I've just been praying and waiting."

Turner said she became alarmed when she called the baby sitter about 3:30 p.m. Friday from her job and the baby sitter told her that her daughter and Pankey hadn't arrived. Turner thought they may have been out shopping.

"I told [Pankey] to stop at a store . . . down the street from the baby sitter's to make sure she got her milk and Pampers," Turner said.

But when Turner called again, Jessica still hadn't arrived. When Turner got off from work at 10 p.m., she called police and reported her daughter missing.

Fearing she would be late for work caused Turner to let Pankey drive Jessica to the baby sitter, she said. The three had run errands together earlier, including a trip to Pankey's bank in Columbia, Turner said.

Friday was the first time Pankey, who had been visiting for a few days, had watched Jessica, Turner said. And because they were longtime friends, she said she had no reason to fear Pankey would abduct her child. The women hadn't had any disagreements, Turner said.

Turner called telephone numbers -- some in West Virginia, New York and the District of Columbia -- that Pankey had left behind in the apartment, asking the people who answered if they had seen Pankey or Jessica.

Turner said she tried to think positively about the outcome. She didn't believe her child and Pankey had been in an accident because police would have notified her.

Then yesterday came word from police that her daughter had been found. "I just want to thank everyone who watched out for her and said a prayer," Turner said.

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