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Title: Glitch Allowed Suspect to Flee

May 4, 2000


The last of four security doors failed to close when alarms sounded, allowing a kidnapper to get out of Loyola University Medical Center with a 2-week-old baby, a hospital official said late Wednesday.

Hospital staff was in the nursery at all times, yet the kidnapper somehow managed to pick up the baby and leave, said Trisha Cassidy, senior vice president for Loyola.

"It is unclear to us how she had access to this infant," Cassidy said.

Security guards immediately rushed to the floor with the sounding of the alarm, Cassidy said, but it was too late. The fourth door had a wiring problem causing the malfunction, she said. The other three doors had no electronic alarms, but hospital employees must allow visitors through each one.

However, a law enforcement source Wednesday said a hospital security guard may have waved the kidnapper past a maternity ward alarm tripped by an electronic bracelet on the baby. The guard told her the alarm often malfunctioned, the source said.

Cassidy said she could not verify that. She added that security has been tightened and the other problems corrected. Zquaen Wakefield, the baby boy, most likely died in a laundry hamper while his alleged kidnapper was being questioned by police, officials said Wednesday.

Vanecha Cooper, 24, was ordered held on $2.5 million bond on murder and kidnapping charges. A judge ordered her to undergo psychiatric testing at her lawyer's request.

As the baby's mother and family grieved, they retained Chicago attorney James Montgomery--a partner of O.J. Simpson lawyer Johnnie Cochran--to represent them in any possible legal acttion against the hospital.

Meanwhile, questions continued to emerge about the case.

The Wakefield baby was abducted at 10:30 p.m. Monday, and Cooper was first interviewed at about 2 a.m. Tuesday when she was among more than a dozen people rounded up for questioning, sheriff's officials said.

Officers found Zquaen dead in the hamper at about 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Cooper's parents helped investigators locate their daughter after hospital records showed she was on a visitor's list to see her nephew in the nursery, and a surveillance camera showed her leaving the center Monday night. Her parents told investigators their daughter was pregnant, and they accompanied police to her boyfriend's West Side apartment, sheriff's spokeswoman Sally Daly said.

Cooper and the boyfriend both told investigators that she was nine months pregnant, Daly said. Investigators conducted a visual search of the kitchen, bedroom and living room but saw no evidence of a baby, Daly said.

"There was no probable cause to extend the visual search," she said. "We saw no diapers, no baby paraphernalia, no crying infant."

Cooper and her boyfriend agreed to go to sheriff's police headquarters in Maywood. After they noticed inconsistencies in her story, investigators gave Cooper a pregnancy test, which showed she was not pregnant, Daly said. Then, the boyfriend consented to a search of his apartment, she said.

Cooper confessed after the baby was found, Daly said.

Sheriff's officials said they think Cooper duped her parents and boyfriend into believing she was pregnant. The boyfriend is not a suspect, Daly said.

Cooper told investigators the baby was alive when police came to her boyfriend's apartment at 2 a.m., sheriff's spokesman Bill Cunningham said.


-- (, May 04, 2000

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