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Kristen Smith Takes Stand in Her Kidnapping Trial

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MADISON, Wis. (WKOW) — The Colorado woman charged with kidnapping a newborn in Beloit and then abandoning the infant near an Iowa gas station testified in her own defense Wednesday, stating the baby’s father gave her permission to take the baby, just days ahead of a planned move by the father and the child’s teen mother to Colorado.

Kristen Smith, half-sister of the 18-year old mother of baby Kayden Powell, testified in the early morning hours of Feb. 6, a groggy Bruce Powell handed her the baby and told her to take him. Smith testified she initially understood Powell’s words to mean to simply hold the baby, but said Powell clarified she was to take Kayden Powell to Colorado on Smith’s planned trip there.

Smith also testified she received a brief phone call from the boy’s mother, Brianna Marshall, asking Smith where Marshall’s baby was, as Smith traveled the first part of what was expected to be a thirteen hour ride to Colorado. Smith said the call was brief, and she then received a call from a Beloit police officer, after she unsuccessfully tried to call Marshall back.

“I’m freaking out,” Smith testified about receiving the officer’s call, saying she wondered why Powell had not clarified she was with the child, and worried she would be the subject of an Amber Alert and her possessions searched.

Smith testified she placed the child with blankets around him in a plastic tote near the front corner of an Iowa gas station, and went to another, nearby gas station to await contact from a police officer.

Smith said she was arrested by an officer on an arrest warrant from Texas, after allowing officers to search her SUV.

Smith’s attorney, Matthew Noll, asked her if she remembered whether investigators asked about the child’s location. “I don’t remember if they did,” Smith replied. “I don’t remember anything on that day,” she testified, as she referenced experienced the disorienting symptoms of high blood pressure.

Authorities say the four day old infant was found by an Iowa police chief the day after Smith’s arrest in twelve-below-zero weather, and survived. The chief testified Tuesday the baby was in a plastic tote that was near the rear of the gas station, and among other, plastic bins, crates and totes for recycling.

During cross examination by assistant U.S. attorney Julie Pfluger, Smith denied faking a pregnancy, and planning to take the child on her own.

As Pfluger grilled Smith about Smith’s past convictions on financial crimes, Smith almost inaudibly claimed she did not know about them, and then turned from the court and started sobbing loudly, burying her head in her hands. The judge ordered a recess, and the trial was delayed for nearly an hour, as Smith was given time in her courthouse cell to compose herself.

Before Smith’s testimony Wednesday, Noll unsuccessfully asked Judge James Peterson for a judgment of acquittal, arguing Smith had received permission to take the baby, and had nothing to gain from her actions. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Sinnot countered Smith had consistently lied about her intentions with her half-sister, the infant and his father, and had faked a pregnancy. Peterson said Noll’s claim of Smith’s permission to take the child was “inconsistent” with previous testimony from the baby’s parents, and denied the motion.

During nearly ninety minutes on the witness stand before a trial break, Smith became emotional when she described losing twins in January, after labor was induced. Smith later testified she told no one — not even her husband — of losing the children.

Earlier in the trial, prosecutors produced evidence showing Smith had a birth certificate application in Colorado and baby items, and showed jurors a prosthetic belly with a navel that was seized from Smith’s SUV.

Both Marshall and Powell testified Smith gave them unspecified pain pills and became drowsy hours before the baby disappeared. Smith testified Powell complained of a headache and she reluctantly him Xanax.