By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A federal judge sentenced a Colorado woman Monday to 25 years in prison for kidnapping her newborn nephew from a Wisconsin home and leaving him for dead behind an Iowa gas station as police closed in, calling her a chronic liar who would have let the child die.
Kristen Smith faced 25 years to life in prison. U.S. District Judge James Peterson said he didn’t give her more time because she’s mentally ill. But he still branded her a liar who launched an elaborate scheme to capture four-day old Kayden Powell and pass him off as her own.
“You would have let him die rather than admit you had taken him,” Peterson said. “Your life is a pattern of misrepresentations which frankly continues even now.”
Choking back tears, Smith told the court she was tactless and made a mistake. She said she had been sexually abused but is still a strong mother and wife. She said she’s “a fan of adventure” and is driven to nurture and protect people. She apologized to the baby’s mother and her half-sister, Brianna Marshall, who was sitting in the front row of the courtroom with Kayden in her arms.
“You truly are priceless and I hope you never forget that,” Smith said.
“You can take that apology and shove it right up your (expletive),” Marshall responded from her seat.
According to investigators, Marshall, Kayden and Kayden’s father, Bruce Powell, were staying with Marshall’s great-uncle in the Town of Beloit on Feb. 5. Smith was visiting them at the home that night but left in the middle in the night with the baby and didn’t tell anyone. Marshall and Powell woke up to find both Smith and Kayden gone and called 911.
Police contacted Smith an hour after Marshall called for help and told her to stop at the nearest gas station for questioning. An officer met her and arrested her after discovering she was wanted in Texas for forging documents. Police later found Kayden in a crate behind another gas station about 500 yards from the one where Smith was arrested. He was alive and well despite spending nearly 30 hours in the cold.
A search of Smith’s cellphone and Facebook page revealed messages in which she claimed to have given birth on Feb. 5. They also found a prosthetic pregnancy belly in her car. Prosecutors argued in court documents she had faked a pregnancy and had planned to show up in Colorado with Kayden and pass him off as her own child.
Smith, 32, maintained during a jury trial in July that Powell and Marshall were going to move in with her in Aurora, Colo., within a few days and Powell asked her to take the baby early. Smith’s attorney, Matt Noel, argued that Smith really thought she was helping her sister but suffers from mental health issues and was off her medication the night she took the baby.
Assistant United States Attorney Julie Pfluger told the judge on Monday that Smith’s story is utterly unbelievable and pointed out Smith has a history of stealing people’s identities and forging documents.
“The defendant,” Pfluger said, “is a woman who has lived her life through deceit and manipulation.”