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Woman Arrested for Trying to Enter Maternity Ward with Fake Babies
Merced police arrested a woman on misdemeanor trespassing charges who they say was trying to access the maternity ward at Mercy Medical while carrying life-like baby dolls.
Tonya Whitney, 41, of Merced, says this is a misunderstanding.
Police say they got a search warrant and arrested Whitney at her apartment. They found many life-like dolls there.
Police say that Whitney says she sells these dolls and was at the hospital to make a sale's pitch.
Whitney and her husband showed up at the hospital twice.
The first time was on Saturday after Whitney's husband visited the emergency department.
"They then retuned Monday and they once again attempted [to enter]. Of course this prompted an immediate response from the hospital because they wanted to secure the safety of the children," says Capt. Tom Trinidad with the Merced Police Department.
Police say Whitney was wearing a nurse's outfit and had her visitor's pass from Saturday.
Whitney was able to get up to the second floor. She carried a fake baby and a carrier.
But she was turned away at the maternity ward and asked to leave.
"If you look at it, could be suspicious. Of course, the assumption could be made that she was there for the purpose of switching out a fake life-like baby with a real baby," Trinidad says.
Hospital security staff noticed the couple's odd behavior as they treated the dolls like real infants, cuddling them and changing their diapers.
Security stopped them to talk with them and took their pictures. They called police and other hospitals to be on alert for the suspicious man and woman.
It was an alert that Christine Jakel received. She's the security operations manager at Children's Hospital Central California.
"They put out the alert to the other hospitals, and then we shared it. I shared it with our local sister hospitals so that they knew what was going on," Jakel says.
She wants to assure parents that Children's Hospital takes security measures to know each person who comes into the hospital's five public entrances. They receive a band after they check in with security, and the band is only valid for the day.
"They are identified for who they are, why they're here," Jakel says. "They need to have a legitimate reason for patient care or business need to be here."
Police say the woman has at least one child.
Police did not arrest her husband.
Mercy Medical has not returned multiple calls for comment.