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Accused Texas baby snatcher arraigned

Paula Lynn Roach at her arraignment Thursday in Abilene, Texas.
Paula Lynn Roach at her arraignment Thursday in Abilene, Texas.  


ABILENE, Texas (CNN) -- The woman accused of kidnapping a 1-month-old girl from a Wal-Mart parking lot was arraigned Thursday, while the baby she allegedly abducted was back in the arms of her parents after a frantic 24-hour search that ended 130 miles from where it began.

Paula Lynn Roach, 24, was charged with aggravated kidnapping. Taylor County Justice of the Peace Bryan Smith set Roach's bond at $200,000.

The abduction of 1-month-old Nancy Crystal Chavez on Tuesday afternoon prompted Texas police to activate the "Amber Alert" system for the first time on a statewide basis.

Amber Alert is an emergency system to quickly distribute information on radio, television, the Internet and electronic traffic signs when a child under 18 is missing.

Almost 24 hours after the kidnapping, Hardeman County Sheriff Randy Akers in Quanah, Texas -- 130 miles from Abilene -- received a phone call.

"We got a call ... from a local informant who said this baby was in the city of Quanah," Akers said. "So my deputy and I immediately began a search for the vehicle."

They located a vehicle they thought was the one used in the abduction at a local nursing home, where Roach's mother worked. The car turned out to be a similar color but not the same vehicle. In the end, though, the change in cars had no bearing on the search.

"She had carried [the baby] out to the nursing home ... and showed it off to her mother's fellow workers," Akers said.

Akers and his deputy didn't have to wait long before Roach, her mother and the baby came out and started to drive off.

"When they got back on the road, we implemented a traffic stop," the sheriff said. "The lady that kidnapped it was holding the baby. She said it was her baby, that she'd had it in a doctor's office that morning and we were just harassing her."

But Roach eventually handed the baby over to the sheriff. Authorities then awaited word on the results of a footprint of the baby, which turned out to match that of Nancy.

Mom: 'No words to explain how I feel'

Just a few hours later, Nancy's grateful parents and other family members were reunited with their daughter.

"My family and I are very happy to have our baby back with us," father Salvador Chavez told reporters. "Thank you for your prayers and thoughts. God was with us taking care of our baby and our family."

Margarita Chavez cradles her infant daughter after they were reunited Wednesday.
Margarita Chavez cradles her infant daughter after they were reunited Wednesday.  

"There's no words to explain how I feel," said Margarita Chavez. "My hopes never ended. I trusted the Lord. I was sure I was going to get my baby back."

As the mother spoke, a smile spread across the infant's face and she raised a hand, touching her mother's cheek.

Margarita Chavez's face was bruised and scratched and her hands and arms bandaged from injuries she suffered as she was dragged about 40 feet across a Wal-Mart parking lot in Abilene trying to stop a woman from driving away with Nancy.

Roach had lived in Quanah for about the past 10 years, but recently moved to the Abilene area, which is 185 miles west of Dallas.

According to Texas Ranger David Hullum, Roach said "she had this void she was trying to fill."

'Classic infant abduction case'

Law enforcement profilers called the kidnapping -- captured by a parking lot video surveillance camera -- "a very classic infant abduction case," he said.

"The surveillance video shows this woman circling around the parking lot. We counted at least five to seven times," Abilene Police Sgt. Kim Vickers said. "She had been looking for an opportunity and when it afforded itself, she seized it."

The video showed Margarita Chavez putting her three children -- the baby, a 2-year-old and a 6-year-old -- into their minivan late Tuesday afternoon and returning her shopping cart to a storage rack a few feet away. She was gone for just a few seconds when Nancy was taken.

Robert Gann, 13, watched the incident unfold and rushed to the car, demanding the woman stop. When she didn't, he slammed the front passenger window with his fist, breaking it.

Margarita Chavez had high praise for Gann, saying he was the first person to try to save her daughter.

Gann said it was a life-changing experience because he had been in trouble with the law before.

"It makes me feel good that everyone looks at me as a good person. Everybody always put me down, told me I wasn't going to make, I was a failure," Gann said. "Now I can stand proud."

-- CNN Correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 



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