‘I had a spotted bear on my face,’ says Ottawa mom of brief kidnapping of newborn baby
A brief cheeky Mother’s Day kidnapping of a toddler boy and his rescue by neighbors began after the child’s mother was given a free gift basket from someone who ‘she had met on Facebook.
Melissa Armstrong, 31, says she reached out to a woman on a Facebook page about free gifts for moms in the Ottawa area, and met her on Friday when she dropped off free clothes for her new son -born.
The two had arranged to meet again on Sunday after the woman told Armstrong her employer was giving out free Mother’s Day gift baskets. When she got to the door, Armstrong said she quickly realized there was no basket.
“I got a bear smear on my face,” Armstrong said, describing how, after being sprayed with the noxious substance, the woman pushed her out of the way.
“We struggled. I tried to keep her away from my son.”
During the struggle, the woman claimed that she was the child’s real mother, according to Armstrong.
WATCH | Family recovering from the ordeal of Mother’s Day:
“She ended up taking my son [and] at this point I realized she wasn’t going to hurt him because she thought it was her son, ”Armstrong said.
Armstrong, who says she was almost blinded by the bear spray and is still recovering from a cesarean, decided it was best to stop fighting and run for help . She ran out of her back door screaming. His neighbor Bobby Emmerson and his teenage son started a chase.
“I start running towards the street. I didn’t know where I was going. I just ran,” Emmerson said.
Emmerson said the woman was carrying the eight-day-old under her arm and trying to get to her car. When he confronted her, he said she put the baby on the floor. Emmerson was able to detain the woman and her son took the baby.
Her son declined to be interviewed. His mother spoke to CBC News for him.
WATCH | The neighbor ran to help:
“I don’t know how many 14 year olds would be brave enough to do what he did, but he did and he did, and he followed his dad until this girl be handcuffed, “Christina Feher said of her. son.
Armstrong’s nine-year-old daughter was also home at the time, but upstairs in her bedroom. Armstrong said the fumes from the spray were so thick that his daughter’s eyes were swollen when paramedics arrived.
Ottawa police arrested Nicole Shanks, 32, of Shawville, Que. She faces ten counts, including the kidnapping of a person under the age of 14 and assault with a weapon. Shanks appeared in court Monday morning, police said, and remains in custody until his next court appearance scheduled for Friday.
Police said investigators from the Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Unit believed the accused may have spoken to other new mothers from similar groups.
Armstrong said the heartbreaking ordeal had shaken her.
“I definitely don’t use free groups anymore. I wanted to tell everyone to be careful because we give out our addresses on the internet and we were bred not to,” Armstrong said.
She and the baby’s father, Nicholas Freda, said they were forever grateful that their son returned unharmed and grateful to those who helped save him.
“I came in tears because I was happy he was back. Everything that came to my mind was why us,” Freda said.
“I’m probably never going to answer the door again. It will take a while for me to be OK again,” Armstrong said.