Having a baby is an expensive endeavor: Those who’ve raised a family know it, and those who are planning to have heard all about it.
It makes sense, then, that parents would keep an eye out for bargains and join local online groups that deal in free hand-me-downs.
But the internet can be as much a scary place as it is a useful one, and this recent story out of Pierce County, Washington, illustrates that perfectly.
It started when one frugal mom came across an ad for free newborn pictures.
There are few things new moms like as much as professional photos of their new additions, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity, according to a post by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department: “The victim reported that she had met the suspect through a post on a newborn baby group on Facebook, where the suspect had advertised free photos of newborn babies so the suspect could build her portfolio.”
But as the photographer began to interact with the new mom and her weeks-old baby, things started to get weird.
Several red flags popped up, the sheriff’s department said.
“The suspect reportedly came to the victim’s residence on three occasions to photograph her newborn baby,” the post stated. “The suspect was observed taking cell phone selfies with the victim’s baby and was seen wiping her fingerprints off items she touched inside the victim’s home.”
Some commenters immediately pointed out the danger in inviting a stranger into your home without knowing them, and some questioned why the unnamed mother would have invited her back again after seeing her “wiping her fingerprints off items she touched” — but perhaps this realization was in retrospect.
It was the third visit that took the cake, police said.
Not only did the “photographer” show up, her teenage daughter did, too, according to the post.
“During the third incident, the suspect and the suspect’s teenage daughter gave the victim a cupcake to eat; the victim reported feeling numb and drowsy immediately after eating the cupcake,” police said. “The victim told the suspect and her daughter to leave her home. After they left, the victim noticed that the suspect had stolen her house keys.”
That’s when the victim called for help.
“An adult female victim called 911 on the night of February 5, 2020, to request medical aid when she suddenly began feeling numbness, drowsiness, instability on her feet and was vomiting,” the sheriff department post explained. “The victim told firefighters that she believed that she had been drugged.”
Deputies kindly used their own funds to help the new mom by purchasing and installing window and door locks so that she could rest a little easier.
As police jumped on the case, it became clear that this “photographer” was not really a photographer.
“We were able to find through search warrants and communication through social media and texts a plot we put together that obviously shows she was attempting to find an infant to take out of state and raise as her own,” Pierce County Sheriff Department’s Detective Ed Troyer told KPNX.
“It’s turning out to be a very colorful background on our suspect,” he added.
Apparently, not only was the suspect using a fake name and allegedly attempting a kidnapping, she’d also been flagged for allegedly trying to build a bomb two years prior.
She and her daughter were arrested on Valentine’s Day, and authorities have asked anyone else who thinks they’ve been contacted by the fake photographer to reach out.
“If you have been contacted by a woman named ‘Juliette Parker’, ‘Juliette Noel’ or ‘Juliette Gains’ who posed as a photographer and believe you are a victim, please give our detectives a call as soon as possible at 253-798-7724 or send us a private message,” police wrote on Facebook.
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