Mother recounts baby’s abduction from Memphis daycare

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It’s every parent's worst nightmare, and for one Memphis mom, it became a reality when her daughter was abducted from her daycare by a stranger.

Two hours later, 7-month-old A'laleh was found safe in a box on someone’s doorstep blocks away.

"I've only seen it on TV," said A'laleh's mother, Jasmine Fentress. "I didn’t think it would hit home – even happen to somebody close to me."

But watching her peacefully sleep, you'd never know that just yesterday little A’laleh was at the center of a frantic search.

It all began when police say 18-year-old Mya Lakes walked into Elite Academy, told workers she was picking up her sister’s baby and forged Fentress' name in the log.

An employee apparently didn't question it and handed A'laleh over.

"So when I get there, I’m confused because somebody has put their name on our space," Fentress said.

She also says she and her daughter's father have never met Lakes, calling her a 'complete stranger.'

"We are zero degrees connected to her," she said.

Fentress thinks Lakes may have used that daycare log – which lists the baby's and parents' names – to decide which child to target.

"It has our information available for anyone to see if they were just to open the book and just flip through," she said. "So, I'm not sure if it was left open."

When Fentress showed up less than an hour later, A'laleh was gone, and she says a worker tried sending her off with someone else's kid.

"She was preparing this other child and I was like, "'That's not my baby. Who is this child?'" she said. "And she was like, 'This is not your baby?' 'No, it's not. My child is A'laleh.' And she called the other workers in and the other worker said, 'Your sister came and got her.'"

This all happened within an hour of another missing child investigation, which turned out to be a hoax.

But Fentress says police never questioned her story – they just started searching.

"They put those boots to the ground and they served me as a citizen of this community and I'm so grateful for them," she said.

Two hours later, a man spotted A’laleh in a box on his neighbor’s doorstep – wearing nothing but a diaper – and called police.

Fentress recalls the exact moment she found out her daughter had been found.

"Tears of joy!" she said. "I rejoiced! They were like, 'What's wrong with this lady?'"

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, like why workers at Elite Academy didn't call Fentress when an unfamiliar person showed up, and why they let Lakes leave with A'laleh.

WREG wanted to ask those questions of the owner in person, but when we showed up Friday morning, we were met with a sign on the front door reading, "Closed Until Monday."

A'laleh had been attending daycare at Elite Academy for less than a week, and Fentress says she won't be going back.

"Absolutely not," she sad. "It's just unfortunate and I hate that it happened to this daycare facility. But I'm more concerned about my child's safety and the other children's safety."

But after all she went through Thursday, Fentress says she never doubted her daughter would be found.

And she credits her faith for keeping her strong.

"My peace definitely came from God," she said. "I rested assured – along with my mother and my church community who kept me covered in prayer – that my daughter was going return safe."

The department of Human Services confirmed Friday afternoon that it has opened an investigation into Elite Academy.

Lakes – who currently has a warrant out for her arrest for an alleged hit-and-run in North Carolina – is charged with aggravated kidnapping and child abuse.

She's being held on a $100,000 bond and is scheduled to face a judge Monday morning.