The day-old infant kidnaped Friday night from George Washington University Hospital was recovered unharmed last night after police, acting on a telephone tip, arranged a rendezvous in Fort Dupont Park.
Two men delivered the baby to police at the end of a series of events that began when a woman called authorities to say she knew who had the baby. The tip led to a secret meeting with the two men at which the rendezvous was arranged, police said.
The actual recovery of the child, who has been the subject of an intensive three-day search by dozens of investigators, involved both a careful plan and a last minute accident. As the men with the baby approached the park, they were intercepted by officers unaware of the rendezvous who were responding to a report made minutes before by a neighborhood resident.
Both the child's mother, Linda Jackson, 24, who issued an emotional plea Saturday for the boy's return, and the father, Walthon C. Lee, 22, were overjoyed last night after being reunited with the child at Children's Hospital.
"I just can't describe it," Lee said at the hospital, where the boy was taken for examination. "All I can feel is what's here in my arms," he said, cradling the boy.
"Wonderful," the mother said, "I just feel wonderful."
No arrests had been made as of late last night, although police said an intensive investigation was continuing and that arrests are expected "imminently."
No information was available about any motive in the kidnaping.
The recovery of the baby, at Randle Circle and Minnesota Avenue SE on the edge of the park, came about six hours after police received their initial tip from the woman, who police said called from Southeast. Although she said she knew who had the baby, the woman reportedly said she could not give the person's name.
The woman's call, police said, led them to an unidentified intermediary, who helped set up a meeting in Southeast Washington about 7:55 p.m. with the two men who eventually turned the baby over to police.
Police did not identify the two men, described as appearing in their late teens, and declined to disclose where the 7:55 p.m. encounter took place.
However, police said that at the meeting, it was arranged that the two men would bring the baby to a rendezvous with investigators in Fort Dupon Park at 9 p.m.
D.C. robbery detectives, who conducted the investigation, were to be at the rendezvous, along with FBI agents who also were involved. An ambulance was to be on hand to take the child immediately to a hospital.
The rendezvous did not occur as planned. About 8:20 p.m., a resident of the neighborhood near the park telephoned police.
She reported seeing two men waling in the area of the park, carrying a baby.
Officers from the 6th District and from the U.S. Park Police answered the report. They encountered the two men and took custody of the baby.
The baby's parents did not learn of the police arrangements for his return until a detective arrived at the grandmother's Southeast Washington house about 9 p.m. and told them to "Come on, Come on."
"I didn't know what was going on," said Jackson. "I kept asking what was going on, but (the detective) still didn't say nothing. When we got in the car, he said 'We go the baby." I was like on a cloud."
They arrived at the hospital just moments before the baby. "As they were bringing him in, they let us peek at him," said the father. "I immediately knew he was mine. I would never forget his face."
By about 11:30 the mother, father and child were all safe again at the house of the grandmother Glady's DeForest in Southeast Washington. Jackson's six sisters, two brothers and more than a dozen nieces and nephews gathered around the child as he was carried into the small living room.
At one point the excited mother took the baby back outside and over to a neighbor's just to show him off. The grandmother held him for her fist time. "I just can't believe it," she said, smiling as her eyes filled with tears. "It's just like a miracle."
The phone rang constantly as friends and neighbors called in their congratulations, but through it all the baby remained quiet, calmly accepting all the attention focused on him.
His name, the father said, will be Walthon Chester Lee Jr., but he's already nicknamed the little boy "RB", for the robbery branch, which handled the police investigation. "They did one helluva job," he said.
Last night's joyful reunion marked the close of an ordeal that began about 8 p.m. Friday, when the mother was lured briefly from the third floor maternity ward room she shared at George Washington with her day-old son.
Jackson said a woman caller told her to go to the hospital's obstetrics area - about a minute's walk from her room - to sign some papers.
When she got to the area, she said, she was told there were no papers to sign. When she returned to her room, the baby was gone.
A pediatrician at the hospital said the baby weighed about 5 pounds, 11 ounces at birth. There were reports last night that the child may have gained weight in the three days since he was taken.
"The baby seems to be in good condition," Dr. Daniel Ochsenschlager, a pediatrician at Children's, said last night.
Recovery of the child came a few hours after friends and coworkers of Jackson offered a $1,000 reward for any information leading to the Baby's safe return.
The money was raised at the comptrollers office of the D.C. public schools where Jackson began working in 1975 as a payroll clerk. Lee is a security officer for a firm in the District. The couple lives in the Hillside community of Prince George's County. CAPTION: Picture, Linda Jackson and Walthon C. Lee cuddle their son at a relative's home last night after being reunited with him at a hospital. The baby's mother said, "I just feel wonderful." By Fred Sweets - The Washington Post