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Friday, September 14, 2018

The Kayden Powell Kidnapping Case

     On February 2, 2014, 18-year-old Brianna Marshall gave birth to a six-pound, 20-inch boy she and her boyfriend Bruce Powell named Kayden. The couple resided in Beloit, a town of 7,700 50 miles south of Madison, Wisconsin near the Illinois border.

     At four-thirty in the morning of Thursday, February 6, 2014, Brianna called 911 and reported that Kayden was missing. Brianna told responding officers with the Beloit Police Department that when she checked the baby's crib, located in the room where she and Bruce slept, the infant was gone. Police officers found no evidence of a break-in and there was no ransom note.

     According to the parents, they last saw Kayden at one-thirty that morning when their houseguest, Brianna's half-sister Kristen Rose Smith, left Beloit en route to her home in Denver, Colorado.

     A police officer reached Smith by calling her cellphone. At five-thirty that morning, Smith pulled into the Kum and Go gas station off Interstate 80 in West Branch, Iowa. From the gas station and convenience store, 180 miles from Beloit, Smith flagged down a local police officer.

     After searching Smith's car and finding baby clothing but no infant, officers with the West Branch Police Department took the half-sister into custody on an outstanding warrant issued from Texas. She was wanted in that state on charges of tampering with government records and fraud. Officers booked Kristen Smith into the Cedar County Jail.

     Back in Beloit, 40 officers representing the FBI, Rock County Sheriff's Office, and the Beloit Police Department, were working on the missing persons case.

     The missing baby's mother, in speaking to a local CNN reporter on Friday, February 6, said: "I held that baby one time and that was the last time I seen that baby and held him." Brianna Marshall said that she, her husband, and the infant were about to move to Denver, Colorado. That explained the baby clothing in the half-sister's car.

     At a press conference held on the afternoon of Friday, February 7, 2014, Beloit chief of police Steven Kopp announced that Baby Kayden Powell had been found alive and well that morning. The infant had been swaddled in blankets inside a tote bag in an exterior storage crate at the Kum and Go gas station in West Branch. The baby had survived for 29 hours in subzero temperatures.

     After being taken into custody in Iowa, Kristen Smith had agreed to take a polygraph test. When she denied abducting the baby, she failed the exam. Following the infant's recovery, she admitted that she had taken the baby, and that she had been pretending to be pregnant. Before flagging the police car at the gas station, she hid the baby for later retrieval. Police officers had disrupted that plan by taking her into custody on the Texas warrants.

     Remarkably, the baby had no signs of frostbite or hypothermia. A physician at the University of Wisconsin Health Center explained that infants possess a thin layer of fat they can metabolize into heat.

     A federal prosecutor charged Smith with kidnapping.

     In July 2014, a jury sitting in a Madison, Wisconsin federal court found Kristen Smith guilty of kidnapping baby Kayden Powell.

    United States District Court Judge James Peterson, in October 2014, before sentencing Kristen Smith, said, "You would have let him die rather than admit you had taken him. Your life is a pattern of misrepresentation which frankly continues even now." The judge sentenced Smith to 25 years in prison.

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