The two women accused of kidnaping Jeremiah Thate from a hospital crib in June drew the 3-week-old infant into lives that had included bouts of alcoholism, unemployment and the invisibility of poverty.
According to testimony presented during a bond hearing yesterday in Prince George's County District Court, the women had little, if any, income and few relatives or acquaintances in the area.
Judge Gerard F. Devlin, after hearing arguments from E. Alan Shepherd, the county's chief public defender, and Assistant State's Attorney Frank Jones, reduced each woman's bond from $50,000 to $25,000.
"It is an unusual and bizarre case," Devlin said. "I am troubled by the weakness of their ties to this area."
Jones argued against reducing the bonds saying, "They kept the child hidden for so long. It seems they were able to hide well. They have no jobs and no signs of stability."
Shepherd, noting that the women had little income except possible Social Security benefits, said they would not be able to post bond. He had asked that bond be lowered to $1,000 apiece, saying neither woman had a criminal record or a history of mental illness.
The profiles beginning to emerge of 50-year-old Lillie Rose Baynes and her 34-year-old daughter, Linda Faye Stancil, are still largely blank ones. The most vivid aspect of their existence seems to be the squalid conditions they -- and Jeremiah -- lived in at a rat-infested, boarded-up apartment in Southeast Washington with no running water or telephone.
Police found the women and the child Wednesday in Apt. 2 at 748 Howard Rd. SE and returned 18-pound Jeremiah, who doctors say is healthy, to his parents that evening. Police said Stancil, who said she had a miscarriage, stated during questioning that she had not planned to steal a baby but had gone to Prince George's Hospital Center to apply for a job. She said she saw Jeremiah smile at her from his crib and she decided to take him, according to police. Baynes maintains that she did not know the baby was stolen, police said.
The women, now being held at Prince George's Correctional Center, initially told police the child was a girl named Quinntena Wilson and was born June 4, according to an affidavit filed by police in D.C. Superior Court in support of a search warrant.
Shepherd said during the hearing that the women said they moved here from North Carolina in 1967. Baynes said she is widowed and Stancil divorced, he said.
From the time that Jeremiah Thate was snatched from his crib at the hospital on June 11, investigators thought the abductor might have some medical background because the infant was being treated for a viral infection through intravenous tubing. The tube was neatly cut when Jeremiah's parents returned to the room and discovered he was missing.
Shepherd said Stancil described herself as a licensed nurse who had been employed at D.C. General Hospital from sometime in 1984 until last April. However, the hospital's personnel office shows no record of her employment.
Shepherd said that Stancil also worked as a nurse's aide at a Northwest Washington foster home and that Baynes also worked there off and on as a cook, until she was recently forced to stop working because of a medical problem. But District officials said yesterday they were not familiar with any foster home named by Shepherd.
Stancil worked as a personal care aide for elderly patients under contract with the D.C. Department of Human Services from October 1986 through last March, when she was terminated "due to unacceptable service," said agency spokesman Charles Siegel.
In court yesterday, Shepherd said Stancil had been treated for alcoholism at St. Elizabeths Hospital, which houses a District-operated treatment program for in- and outpatients. Although numerous bottles of vodka were in evidence at the apartment when reporters toured it Thursday, along with a notepad listing addresses and telephone numbers for several drug and alcohol treatment programs in the District, Shepherd said Stancil's alcoholism was "apparently in remission."
Shepherd would not elaborate on Baynes' medical problem that had caused her to stop working, except to say that it was physical and not mental.
County child abuse investigators said they have not uncovered evidence suggesting that drug abuse played a role in the abduction of Jeremiah Thate.
In September, three months after Stancil allegedly cut intravenous tubes from Jeremiah's arm and hid him in a Wilson gym bag to make her escape from the hospital, she regained employment caring for the city's elderly using the alias Linda Lewis, Siegel said. But when a coworker recognized her as the same woman who had been fired earlier in the year, she lost the job again, he said.
District agencies have few records that add to the portrait of the women.
Their apparently transient life of poverty -- they moved from abandoned apartment to abandoned apartment, according to several neighbors -- may have helped them elude police.
At the Howard Road apartment building, inhabited by only a few families and some elderly people, Baynes and Stancil were able to live unnoticed even with a white baby whose abduction was widely publicized.
Several of their neighbors said they saw the two women only when the mother and daughter needed food, money or use of a telephone.
When Baynes and Stancil were not asking for canned milk, cheese and bread, neighbors said they saw them walking along the street, the mother often cradling a doll or sometimes directing traffic and the daughter pushing a stroller that no one suspected might have contained Jeremiah Thate.
On Thursday, sitting on a bookshelf in their apartment was an incomplete application signed by Baynes for emergency food assistance dated Feb. 19. In answer to the question of why the applicant needed such assistance, Baynes apparently had written "because I don't have any food or money to buy food."
Calls from a telephone tipster and District firefighter who responded to a fire in the apartment building that a white baby was living with two black women led Prince George's County police to Baynes and Stancil's apartment.
At least since April, Shepherd said in court, the two women had no source of income.
Neither woman uttered a word as they appeared before Judge Devlin via closed-circuit television from the county Correctional Center, normal procedures for the daily bond reviews in District Court.
Both women face up to life in prison if they are convicted of the kidnaping charges.