NewsChannel 11's Investigative Reporter Cecelia Jones is back home after bonding out of jail late Wednesday afternoon. Amarillo Police arrested Cecelia Tuesday night while she conducted an undercover investigation on hospital security. Wednesday, the department charged Cecelia with two counts of attempted aggravated kidnapping.
Cecelia says she's happy to be back home, and tells us it was a challenging 12 hours in jail. She commends both hospitals for their heightened security, but tells us she doesn't feel like she did anything illegal.
Following this month's abduction of baby Mychael Darthard-Dawodu from Covenant Lakeside, Cecelia planned a report to test hospital security. She chose Amarillo because following baby Mychael's abduction, hospitals across the state announced they would increase security.
Cecelia planned this undercover investigation with station management and consulted with legal council. The plan for the investigation had her mirror the profile of the accused abductor in baby Mychael's kidnapping.
Cecelia visited two hospitals Tuesday night. She went to Northwest Texas Health System first. After about ten minutes, two hospital security guards confronted her. They asked for her ID, and Cecelia immediately gave it to them, along with her media badge. She told them she was a reporter working on an investigative story about hospital security. At that point, security asked Cecelia to leave and escorted her to the front door and she left.
Amarillo Police released a picture taken from a security camera at Northwest's maternity ward. It shows Cecelia standing in the same public hallway as an employee who was taking a baby back to the ward.
You'll remember that police reports indicate Rayshaun Parson, the woman accused of taking baby Mychael from Covenant, allegedly walked down the same hallway with a nurse there, who was carrying a child.
Cecelia never touched a child, and investigators say this is as close as she ever got to one of the babies. Police and Northwest hospital officials also say that Cecelia did not go into any restricted areas.
After leaving Northwest, she went across the street to Baptist St. Anthony's Health System. Mary Barlow, the Director of Corporate Communications for BSA says Northwest contacted them before Cecelia ever walked inside, saying an undercover reporter from Lubbock was in town.
Cecelia entered the first floor and went to the second floor where pediatrics is located. When she couldn't find the nursery, she asked an employee where it's located, and the employee allegedly directed Cecelia to the third floor.
Barlow says Cecelia never entered into any restricted area there either. Security footage shows Cecelia walked down a hallway and into a public waiting room. Barlow says the closest Cecelia ever got to a baby at BSA was walking through the public access hallway.
Hospital security and an off-duty Amarillo Police Officer confronted Cecelia she says after about five minutes. Again, Cecelia identified herself as a reporter and showed her media badge and explained what she was doing there.
The off-duty officer apparently contacted police, and security detained Cecelia at BSA for about two hours. Police officially arrested Cecelia just before 11:00 p.m. Tuesday, and she was booked into jail around 2:00 a.m. Wednesday.
Cecelia appeared before a judge around 8:00 a.m. Wednesday and learned she faced two charges of attempted aggravated kidnapping, one for each hospital. She was released on bond around 2:00 p.m. Wednesday.
Both of Lubbock's major hospitals responded to this investigation. UMC writes:
"UMC Health System appreciates the relationship we have with members of the news media and value the partnership we have with the media in communicating information to the public we serve.
Hospital security, especially infant security, is a paramount concern for UMC and all hospitals. Our goal is to provide as safe and secure of an environment as possible for our patients, and we are certain the facilities in Amarillo share that goal.
It is apparent this investigative reporter was on assignment in Amarillo, covering hospital security measures. She clearly demonstrated those measures work well at both Amarillo hospitals. I hope any misunderstanding related to her identity or intent will be quickly cleared."
- Greg Bruce, Vice President, UMC Health System
"Covenant Health System commends the Amarillo hospitals and police department in their efforts to protect the integrity of their hospitals' security systems.
In our experience, KCBD NewsShannel 11 is a fine news organization with a history of professionalism."
Due to the overwhelming response Wednesday from this story, KCBD General Manager Dan Jackson issued a new statement Wednesday night.
"There was an overwhelming viewer interest and response to the Lubbock kidnapping. Our station was conducting a critically important investigation about how well our hospitals are protecting our children and families at their most vulnerable time," Jackson said.
"The station took rigorous steps to insure that no one's privacy would be violated and that infants would be safe. Cecelia caused absolutely no harm to any infants; in fact, she broke no laws," Jackson continued.
Attempted aggravated kidnapping is a felony. Prosecutors, at this point, would likely have to prove that Cecelia intended to steal a baby, and as you heard Dan say, Cecelia's assignment was to test security, and she never had any intention of trying to take a child.
Investigators also tell us tell us she never came in contact with a child.