Woman charged with Christmas Eve kidnapping of toddler approves transfer of case to Chicago

Wednesday, January 2nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ A woman accused of taking a toddler from a Chicago bus station will be transferred there for preliminary hearings on federal kidnapping charges, federal officials said Wednesday.

Sheila Matthews waived her right to have preliminary and detention hearings in Charleston during an appearance in federal magistrate court.

Matthews is scheduled to be transferred to Chicago by federal marshals within the next few days.

Prosecutors say Matthews kidnapped 16-month-old Jasmine Anderson on Christmas Eve after befriending her mother in a Greyhound bus terminal. After a nationwide manhunt, police found the girl in Williamson on Thursday and arrested Matthews.

Matthews originally was to have the hearings in Charleston. Public Defender Mary Lou Newberger said Wednesday that Matthews changed her mind and wants them to take place in Chicago, where she is charged and any trial would take place.

``This way she can get back to Chicago a lot sooner,'' Newberger said. ``She wants to get all this done as soon as possible.''

Matthews could face life in prison if convicted.

Wednesday's hearing took less than five minutes. Matthews sobbed briefly beforehand when she was told her sister was in the courtroom, then composed herself when U.S. Magistrate Mary Stanley entered the court.

According to the FBI, Matthews pleaded guilty in 1988 to kidnapping a toddler she had been baby-sitting for in Seattle. The 3-year-old was found unharmed a month after she disappeared. Matthews was sentenced to 5 1/2 months in jail.

Earlier this year, Matthews pleaded guilty to attempted forgery after she was found in Seattle with a Chicago boy, the FBI's Seattle office said. Matthews was not charged with kidnapping in that case.