Woman to be tried in infant abduction A judge rejected a request to lower the $1 million bail for Carolyn Correa, charged with taking Delimar Vera in 1997.

Posted: April 17, 2004

A Philadelphia Family Court judge ordered Carolyn Correa held for trial yesterday in the 1997 kidnapping of infant Delimar Vera from distant relatives, saying "the circumstantial evidence in this case is some of the strongest I've seen."

But that evidence, outlined during a 4 1/2-hour preliminary hearing, left unanswered key questions about the case - including the identity of an accomplice the prosecutor said must have helped Correa.

"The timeline was too tight," said Assistant District Attorney Leslie Gomez, of the sequence of events on the afternoon and evening of Dec. 15, 1997. "There had to have been another individual present to remove the baby from the home."

According to testimony, Correa, 42, of Willingboro, was visiting the Feltonville home of her cousin through marriage, Pedro Vera, and his wife, Luzaida Cuevas, during the late afternoon of Dec. 15.

Correa was downstairs at the house at 4410 Hurley St. when Cuevas went upstairs to check on 10-day-old Delimar, spotted an open window in the back bedroom, and smelled smoke coming from the front bedroom where she, Vera and the baby slept.

Cuevas said she looked for Delimar but could not find her on the bed or crib. She said she ran downstairs screaming, "The baby is not in the room," then returned upstairs, only to be driven back by smoke and flame.

Andre L. Moore, Correa's boyfriend, testified that he met Correa at his mother's house in Edgewater Park in Burlington County between 6:30 and 8 p.m. on Dec. 15, where he was introduced to his new infant daughter, whom he named Aaliyah.

Gomez, the prosecutor, gave no indications about who Correa's alleged accomplice might be. Only Correa has been charged.

In addition to ruling that Correa should face trial on charges that include kidnapping, arson, criminal conspiracy, burglary and criminal trespass, Bruno rejected a request by defense attorney Saul Steinberg to reduce the $1 million cash bail under which Correa has been held in prison since her March 2 arrest.

Gomez argued that Correa, if released, was likely to flee or try to reestablish contact with Delimar. The 6-year-old - her identity was confirmed through DNA testing - has been reunited with and lives with Cuevas and the child's siblings in the Oxford Circle section of Northeast Philadelphia.

Correa, a short, slightly built woman in a white pullover and jeans, did not testify and, except for a few conversations with her attorney, spent most of the hearing staring ahead.

When Cuevas went to the witness stand to testify, Correa glanced at her once without expression. Cuevas also appeared to avoid looking at Correa, who sat just 15 feet away, except for when she had to identify her. Correa did not look at her cousin, Pedro Vera, when he testified.

Speaking through a Spanish interpreter, both Cuevas and Vera recounted Correa's unexpected visit to their Feltonville rowhouse on Dec. 14, 1997, and the fire the next day that they believed killed their daughter.

Both testified they had doubts their daughter died in the fire that gutted the house, though a firefighter showed Vera a yellow bag that he said contained human remains from the crib.

Gomez said the Medical Examiner's Office determined later that the remains were not human, just clumps of melted polyester and bedding that lay atop the charred springs of the crib.

Vera testified that he next saw Delimar in July 2000 when Correa and the child came to a baby shower for Vera's niece.

"I saw [the child] and a cold feeling went through me," Vera said, adding that he did not tell Cuevas about his suspicions.

Two years later, Cuevas saw the girl with Correa at a neighborhood birthday party and was shocked.

"I thought that the girl doesn't look like her," Cuevas testified. "She looks like my own children. And when she smiled and got a dimple in her cheek, I knew: That's my daughter."

Equally emotional was testimony by Moore, who smiled as Gomez showed him Delimar's photograph and said: "I still care about her to this day."

Moore recalled that when he went to his mother's house on Dec. 15, 1997, to see Correa and meet their new daughter, his sister approached him: "She looked at me and said: 'That little girl is somebody's kid but it's sad to say it doesn't really look like you.' I said, 'Don't ruin the moment. Let's just welcome her to the family.' "

Gomez introduced Correa's medical records showing that in January 1996 she had both fallopian tubes tied.

In May and early December 1997, Gomez said, records showed that Correa went to the hospital complaining of bleeding and cramps and saying she thought she was pregnant. Both times doctors could not confirm a pregnancy with an ultrasound examination and, in December she refused an internal examination and left.

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2658 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

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