Federal prosecutors charged Kristen Rose Smith on Feb. 7 with kidnapping her half-sister's newborn boy from a Wisconsin home hours after police discovered the infant in a storage crate outside an Iowa gas station, alive and well. (Tipton (Iowa) Sheriff / AP)
IOWA CITY, IOWA — The woman charged with kidnapping her half sister’s newborn this month had been discharged from the U.S. Army Reserve after about a year of service, military officials say.
Kristen Smith served in a Wisconsin-based unit from December 2011 until her removal in December 2012, the Army’s Human Resources Command in Fort Knox, Ky., said this week following an inquiry from The Associated Press.
An involuntary discharge that early into an 8-year commitment signals major problems either with one’s service or personal life, but the reason for Smith’s cannot be divulged under Army policy, said Army Reserve spokesman Lt. Col. Matthew Lawrence. Such discharges are rare and typically done when soldiers fail to complete training, face legal issues or are seriously injured, he said.
“For one that early, there would be probably something administratively that would have forced their hand to discharge her,” he said.
Army spokesman Ray Gall said her departure is considered an “entry-level discharge” since she had slightly less than one year of service. He said it was not the result of a crime or a court-martial, but that he could not elaborate under Army policy.
Smith was federally indicted Wednesday in the Feb. 6 kidnapping of her newborn nephew. Investigators say Smith took him from a southern Wisconsin home where she was visiting her half sister, and then left him in freezing temperatures in Iowa. Police say the newborn was found alive 29 hours later.
Smith enrolled in the Army Reserve in Milwaukee and was assigned to the 102nd Military Police Company in Fond du Lac, Wis. Her contract was supposed to run through 2019.
After her unsuccessful military career, public records in Colorado and Texas showed that Smith nonetheless continued to falsely claim she was employed by the Army.
She’s charged with forging Army documents that said she’d been ordered to duty in Kuwait so that she could break her apartment lease in Fort Worth, Texas. When she was arrested last year in Colorado, booking records show she listed her employer as the Army’s military police.
After her discharge, Smith moved into a Fort Worth apartment complex in early 2013. By April, she’d opened bank accounts under two different names and Social Security numbers in Westworth Village, a town 7 miles away, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained under the public records law. She deposited bad checks, draining $6,600 before a bank investigator caught on and called police, the document says.
Westworth Village Police Detective Darren Clark obtained surveillance images of Smith cashing checks and went to the apartment complex. Assistant complex manager Tasha Davis identified Smith in the photos, and said Smith was already moving out after just a few months, the affidavit says.
Smith had recently given Davis two Army documents that ordered Smith to relocate to Virginia and then report to a six-month officer’s training program in Kuwait. The documents qualified her for a military exemption in her lease — saving her from paying $3,033 in penalties.
But Clark determined the documents were fakes after learning of her discharge from the service, and Smith was charged with tampering with a government record. By then, she was gone.
“I would have never thought she would have been that type of person,” Davis said.
Investigators say Smith moved to Aurora, Colo., and was arrested there in October. She was released on bond and ordered to appear in court in March to face extradition proceedings on the Texas warrant.
With that matter pending, the FBI says Smith traveled to the Town of Beloit, Wis., to visit her 18-year-old half sister Brianna Marshall and baby Kayden Powell, born Feb. 1.
The FBI says Smith left with Kayden early Feb. 6. Police contacted her as she was driving through Iowa and ordered her to stop for questioning. She denied knowledge of Kayden’s whereabouts but was taken into custody on the Texas warrant. Police found the child alive the next day behind a gas station.
Smith, who has not responded to an interview request, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. She’s expected to be transferred from an Iowa jail to Wisconsin before a court appearance Friday.