Denver woman, Kristen Smith, charged in Wisconsin baby kidnapping, repeatedly claimed to be pregnant

Prosthetic 'pregnancy belly' found in Smith's car

DENVER - A Denver woman charged with kidnapping a newborn baby in Wisconsin said in court papers in December that she was pregnant.

Kristen Rose Smith, 31, was also telling people metro Denver in November that she was pregnant with a baby boy and she recently appeared about six months pregnant during a court hearing in Arapahoe County, Indya Ford, an Aurora woman, told 7NEWS.

Court records indicate that Smith may have pretended to be pregnant as she plotted to kidnap her half-sister's 4-day-old son in order to claim he was her baby.

Smith is charged with kidnapping Kayden Powell in the middle of the night on Feb. 6 and then transporting him across state lines to Iowa, according to a federal arrest affidavit.

Smith's half-sister, 18-year-old Brianna Marshall, awoke about 4:30 a.m. to find her baby missing from a bassinet in her bedroom.

Minutes after police arrived, Smith called Marshall's grandmother, who handed the phone to an officer. Smith told the officer that Marshall and the baby's father, Bruce Powell, 23, were planning to move to Denver to live with Smith, the affidavit said.

Smith said she had the baby's clothing in her car, but did not have the infant. Smith was calling from Interstate 80 near West Branch, Iowa, and the officer told her to drive to the nearest gas station, where police would contact her.

West Branch police found Smith. A search of her car turned up baby clothes, an infant car seat, a stroller -- but Kayden was nowhere to be found. Smith was arrested on an unrelated fugitive of justice charge out of Texas.

When the FBI and Iowa investigators questioned her at the Cedar County Jail, she still maintained she had no idea where the baby was, the affidavit said.

Yet, investigators searching Smith's cellphone found emails she'd sent saying she gave birth on Feb. 5, the affidavit said. Smith's Facebook page contained postings where Smith claimed she was pregnant. 

"Smith did not appear pregnant, had not appeared pregnant while in Wisconsin, and was pregnancy tested and was not pregnant," an FBI agent wrote in the arrest affidavit.

Another search of Smith's car turned up a "prosthetic pregnancy belly." Smith was given a polygraph test about the location of the missing baby and "failed the polygraph exam," the affidavit said.

Then, Smith began telling investigators that Kayden's parents had given him to a relative in Chicago, as she kept denying any involvement in his disappearance.

Meanwhile, police were intensely searching Smith's route on I-80, hoping to find the baby who might have spent the night outside in sub-zero temperatures.

At 10 a.m., the morning after the kidnapping, West Branch, Iowa, Police Chief Mike Horihan spotted a plastic tote box covered with frost outside a BP gas station on I-80.

He opened the lid and heard an amazing sound -- the muffled cry of a baby. The child was wrapped in several blankets, sheets and clothing. He was clothed, but didn't have on a hat.

"You could have knocked me over with a feather," Horihan, a 36-year police veteran, told KCRG-TV.

Kayden was found 500 yards from the Kum & Go gas station where Kristen Smith had been arrested a day earlier.

The baby had been missing for more than 30 hours and -- despite spending the night in the frigid cold -- he was surprisingly healthy, the police chief said.

"The temperatures were 12-below zero last night and the chances of finding a baby alive in that environment, I didn't expect to be very high," Horihan told KCRG-TV, the Cedar Rapids ABC affiliate. "I think that the baby was found alive is truly a miracle."

After the baby was found, investigators again questioned Smith at the jail. She admitted taking the baby from her half-sister's home and leaving him behind the BP gas station, the affidavit said. She gave investigators a hand drawn map of where the baby was found at the gas station.

7NEWS' interviews with people who know Smith and Colorado court records portray Smith as a troubled woman, who was arrested in Aurora last fall on fugitive from justice warrants in Indiana, where's wanted for forgery, and Texas, where she's wanted for fraud.     

On Dec. 6, Smith filed for divorce from her husband, Joseph Allen Smith II, 28, in Arapahoe County court.

In a sworn divorce petition, Kristen Smith checked a box saying she was pregnant. "Petitioner is currently pregnant," the divorce records said.

But Smith didn't divorce her husband. At the request of the couple, the divorce case was dismissed just three weeks after it was filed.

A family member of Kayden Powell's parents told WKOW-TV in Wisconsin that the relative believes Kristen Smith kidnapped the baby to "prove" to her husband that she was pregnant.

Then there's Indya Ford, the Aurora woman who told 7NEWS she tried to warn Arapahoe County authorities there was something wrong with Kristen Smith, but no one would listen.

Ford has a daughter fathered by Joseph Smith, Kristen's husband. Ford and Joseph Smith have been locked in a year-long child custody battle.

And Kristen Smith, as the stepmother of the Ford's daughter, has become part of the custody fight.  

"I had a feeling, just a feeling she wasn't right," Ford said of Kristen Smith, during an interview with 7NEWS reporter Molly Hendrickson.

Ford says she tried to raise flags about Smith's past trouble with the law, including her arrest on out-of-state fugitive warrants, during court hearings in the custody dispute.

"I told the judge, nobody knows who she is, she has all these different aliases. I have all these police reports and she has four different date of births listed here," Ford told 7NEWS.

But nobody listened, Ford said.

Then in November, Kristen Smith announced she was pregnant and would soon give birth to a baby boy. Nobody questioned that, but Ford was skeptical.

"When I saw her at court last Thursday she looked like she was about six or seven months pregnant, her belly wasn't that of a belly that was about to give birth," Ford said.

Finally, how did Smith, who was facing extradition on criminal charges to Texas and Indiana, get from Colorado to Wisconsin?

She requested and received a public defender in an Arapahoe County court and in November she began fighting extradition out of Colorado. She was freed from Arapahoe County Jail on $7,000 bond.

On Jan. 6, a judge granted a public defender's request to vacate an extradition hearing and instead let Kristen Smith to travel on her own to Texas and Indiana to address her criminal charges, according to court records. The judge required that Smith waive her right to fight extradition back to Colorado -- if she took off -- and also said Smith's bail bondsman would need to consent to allow her to leave the state.

Exactly one month later, Smith was arrested and accused of kidnapping her step-sister's baby in Wisconsin.

Kayden Powell's parents are still trying to make sense of their ordeal.

"God had my son out there for 30 hours in the cold," the father, Bruce Powell, said, according to WEAU.com.

The baby's mother, Brianna Marshall, is grateful to have Kayden back in her arms, but she has some hard questions for Kristen Smith.

"I want to know what's going through your head? You're my sister and you did this to my son, my only son? I just don't understand," the teen mother said.