Philadelphia Insisting that no one can stop her from loving the child she kidnapped as an infant during a fire and raised as her own, Carolyn Correa was sentenced to nine to 30 years Friday for a crime that drew national attention.
Speaking in a flat voice and showing no emotion, the 43-year-old Willingboro, N.J., woman said that she believed the girl, Delimar Vera, to be her own, but also claimed that Delimar's biological father gave her the infant to raise.
The father, Pedro Vera, shook his head as he sat in the front row of the courtroom. His attorney, Edward Zawrotny, later called Correa's claim "absurd."
In February, Correa pleaded no contest to kidnapping, interfering with child custody and conspiracy in connection with the 1997 Feltonville, Pa., case. However, no co-conspirator has ever been charged.
Assistant District Atty. Leslie Gomez said the investigation remains open. Gomez told Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Pryor Dembe that Correa has a lengthy history of "deceit and manipulation."
"When she offers the story now that 'somebody gave me the baby,' what possible basis of faith do we have that she's telling the truth now?" Gomez argued.
Delimar was 10 days old on Dec. 15, 1997, when a fast-moving fire broke out in her family's rowhouse and she was snatched from her crib.
At first, investigators believed that the baby's body had been consumed in the blaze.
But six years later, a DNA test revealed that Delimar was being raised by Correa, who called the girl Aaliyah.
Delimar's mother, Luzaida Cuevas, had always suspected that her daughter was alive and contacted authorities after recognizing the little girl at a children's birthday party. Delimar, now 7, was reunited with her mother in March 2004.