A Missouri woman's suspicions lead to a toddler being reunited with his mother A mother and child reunion

February 02, 2007|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,Sun reporter

Nicole Baldwin first felt something amiss in her Riverdale neighborhood when her neighbor turned down a chance to borrow a Halloween costume for his little boy. Then Christmas came and went with no sign of celebration. She didn't see little Abraham Felipe Monroy outside for weeks, then months.

"I didn't understand why they would leave the child ... inside," said Baldwin, 29. "They were keeping the child hidden. And I kept wondering, `Where's his mother?'"

Baldwin's curiosity led her to the Internet, where she discovered the child was listed as missing from his mother's home in Missouri. She notified authorities, eventually resulting in a triumphant reunion yesterday at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport when the mother, Crystal DeBrodie, 25, flew into town and reclaimed with her son.

FOR THE RECORD - A headline in Friday's editions of The Sun about a toddler reunited with his mother misidentified the woman who alerted authorities as being from Missouri. She is a Maryland resident.
The Sun regrets the error.

His father, Felipe Monroy, 30, was arrested earlier this week on a charge of parental kidnapping and is being held without bond at the Prince George's County Detention Center, Maryland State Police said yesterday.

When 2-year-old Abraham saw his mother again, she knelt and gave him an old blanket he had last touched half his lifetime ago.

He stared up at her for a moment and seemed to recognize her when she spoke a few works of Spanish, the only language he knows. Then he raised his arms to let her scoop him up.

DeBrodie said she knew this day would come since Abraham was taken from her home in Jefferson City, Mo., in September 2005.

"I knew he would slip," she said of her former common-law husband, who worked as a cafe cook and busboy when they were a couple.

DeBrodie is a mother of three. Until recently, she worked in a factory but now stays home with her children, including a newborn. She smoked a cigarette at the airport as she absorbed the moment. She would have known her son's face anywhere, she said.

"He's my little papoose, my Indian baby," she said. "I haven't slept or eaten since yesterday at 2:12 p.m."

"He's heavy now," she said. "He said he wanted to go home. Tomorrow, we'll have a welcome-home party."

Minutes later, First Sgt. Russell Newell of the state police took the pair out to lunch at a McDonald's and then to board a flight back to Missouri.

Baldwin and DeBrodie first met yesterday - and for Baldwin, it was her first trip to BWI. Her path there began with hunting for Abraham's picture - a boy she had seen just twice - on the Web site of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"I'm a mom at heart, just a mom," Baldwin said. "When you get a feeling in your heart, you trust your mother's intuition."

On March 9, she located the youngster's photo on the Internet. "When his eyes popped out on the Internet, I printed it out and I said, `That's him,'" Baldwin said.

She took the picture to Prince George's County police. But they said they needed more proof.

By that time, Monroy and his housemates had moved.

She searched the area for his vehicle, finding it near his new home not far from the old one. She noted and reported to police the Missouri license tags, providing another link to the missing-person case in that state.

She also contacted authorities in Jefferson City with her suspicions, and the reunion was set in motion.

Monroy is being held pending an extradition hearing that may result in sending him to face trial in Cole County, Mo., police said.

Capt. Michael W. Smith, operations commander of the Jefferson City Police Department, said Baldwin helped bring about a rare solution.

"It's been a difficult investigation, because the father is a Mexican national, so we thought he might cross international lines," Smith said. "Then we received this tip that the subject was in Maryland, not Mexico. It's not often we get a joyous ending to these type of situations."

Witnessing the reunion of DeBrodie and Abraham, Baldwin barely held back her tears.

"I don't know how she went without him this long," she said. "I was happy to do that for her."

jamie.stiehm@baltsun.com

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