MERCED, Calif. --A woman who was arrested for trespassing at a local hospital while carrying life-like dolls is defending herself now. Tonya Whitney was arrested just after an exclusive interview with Action News Friday afternoon.
"I, in no way, tried impersonating a nurse," Whitney said. "I, in no way, ever thought or tried to steal a baby."
Whitney is now facing misdemeanor charges after prompting a scare at Mercy Medical Center in Merced. Police say they feared she was trying to abduct a newborn.
Whitney went to Merced police headquarters with officers, where she and her husband were interviewed. She was released with a citation. She tells Action News that carrying the life-like doll into the hospital was never meant to scare anyone.
Mercy Medical Center staff created a flier with pictures of Whitney and her husband at the hospital, carrying the extremely real-looking dolls. "Never once did anyone tell us 'you're not allowed up there, you shouldn't be here,'" Whitney said.
Action News spoke with Whitney hours after being arrested. She says an ER nurse told her it'd be a good idea to show the dolls to the staff in the maternity ward.
Whitney says she makes and sells these dolls herself. She claims she was marketing them as therapy or training tools to Mercy Medical Center.
The hospital photos show Whitney dressed in scrubs, which raised another red flag with security.
"Well I've gained weight in the last couple months and that's basically all I had that fit," she said.
Police aren't buying Whitney's story. "We are concerned because she did show up at the ER and attempted to get into the maternity ward not once but twice so that concerns us; we're afraid for the potentiality of abduction," said Merced Police Capt. Tom Trindad.
The life-like dolls Whitney makes are created and sold all over the world. They're called Reborn. A website has tons of them for sale for an average of $100-$300.
Whitney says they can be strange to people, at first. And she admits some at Mercy didn't like the dolls. "My dolls can be kinda freaky," Whitney said. "So we just apologized and left."
Whitney may soon appear in court, but she's hoping police and prosecutors see her side and drop the charge against her.