Norfolk, VA – May 21, 2008 - When they hiked up their courage and intervened to help recover an abducted infant last December, Sentara Leigh Hospital employees Lisa Ahlbrandt and Sue Midgett gave no thought to being recognized for their actions. However, today they were presented with the Amber Alert Citizen Award by the U.S. Justice Department at the National Missing Children’s Day ceremony in Washington, D.C. for their role in the recovery of five week-old Matasia Ricks of Portsmouth.
“We just knew we had to act quickly,” says Midgett, a radiology assistant who works almost daily with her partner, Lisa Ahlbrandt, a radiology technologist. Ahlbrandt and Midgett heard an Amber Alert about the Ricks abduction on a local radio station playing in their work area. Each looked at the other as they realized they had performed a scan on the suspect, Kimberly Gardner, just ten minutes earlier. The two women hurried to the emergency department where Gardner was being treated to confirm their suspicions.
“My heart was thumping in my chest,” recalls Ahlbrandt. She had emergency department staff discreetly call 911 while Midgett gushed over the baby with Gardner in a treatment room and identified the baby’s clothing described in the alert.
Police arrived in minutes, arrested Gardner and safely recovered the baby.
“We’re very proud of them,” says Mark Szalwinski, vice president and administrator of Sentara Leigh Hospital. “They demonstrated our Culture of Safety,” Szalwinski continues, “including Attention to Detail, Critical Thinking and Clear Communication, plus, they backed each other up and never left their wingman.
“This was a textbook case of using their training,” Szalwinski concludes, “as well as their personal courage.”
Virginia State Police submitted nomination
The Virginia State Police, who coordinate Amber Alerts, nominated Ahlbrandt and Midgett for the Amber Alert Citizen Award and, from among all submissions nationwide, their nomination received the highest score from a Justice Department review panel. With Attorney General Michael Mukasey and 300 invited guests in attendance, they received the award in the Great Hall of Justice at the Justice Department building.
Suspect scheduled for trial
The suspect, 22 year-old Kimberly Gardner, faces trial on July 14th in Portsmouth (Virginia) Circuit Court on one count of abduction in the reported disappearance of Matasia Ricks, who was five weeks old at the time. According to news reports, Gardner asked the baby’s mother, Myeshia Ricks, if she could take Matasia shopping for a day on December 19, 2007. The two women met through a family member about a month prior and became friends. Myeshia agreed, but became alarmed when Gardner failed to bring the baby home as scheduled and did not answer calls to her cell phone.
Myeshia Ricks reported the disappearance that night to Portsmouth Police, who issued an Amber Alert on the morning of December 20th.
Kimberly Gardner presented at the Sentara Leigh Hospital emergency department about 10:30am on December 20th, seeking care for herself. It was shortly after a radiology procedure was performed on Gardner that Sue Midgett and Lisa Ahlbrandt heard the Amber Alert on the radio and took steps leading to the Matasia’s recovery and Gardner’s arrest.
Local interviews available
Members of the media wishing to interview Lisa and Sue should contact Sentara public relations consultant Dale Gauding at 757-455-7118 or 757-615-4718.