WATERBURY, Conn. – The woman in the bus depot, the perpetrator, was amiable and chatty, Eleanor Williams tearfully told the police.
This was long ago, after Williams, young and naive, had been tragically preyed upon, investigators said. Today, it’s a cold case.
The woman, whose crime in the terminal that day shattered Williams’ psyche, was African-American and appeared to be in her 20s, Williams recalled, speaking for the first time in decades about a mystery that has perplexed District of Columbia police. Williams said the stranger’s perfidy left her so mired in guilt and shame that she later contemplated killing herself.
The woman, about 5-foot-3 and slender, struck up a conversation with Williams in the passenger waiting area, cooing over Williams’ infant daughter. After a while, in the sweetest voice, she asked whether she could hold the child.
Please? Just for a minute?
She said her name was Latoya.
Which might have been a lie. Who knows?
She said she was headed “out west” – maybe also a lie.
Williams was 18 then, on Dec. 2, 1983, a date that haunts her. She had grown up on a nine-acre farm in southeast Virginia, and she still lived there. Before that morning, when she set out for Kansas by motor coach with her daughter, she had never ventured more than 30 miles from her home, she said.
Her baby, April Nicole Williams, 3 1/2 months old, was bundled in a pink-and-white snowsuit. The trip’s first leg, 200 miles, brought them to a bus station in downtown Washington.
They were scheduled for a three-hour afternoon stop. Carrying April and her diaper bag, Williams, who had been awake since before dawn, trudged into the station and sat down wearily, with 1,200 miles of highway still ahead of her.
Latoya, if that was really her name, “came over next to me at some point and just started talking to me,” Williams said recently in her Connecticut apartment, sobbing as she described the awful mistake she made 34 years ago. Latoya “was being friendly, asking me lots of questions. Like, ‘Where are you going?’ And, ‘How old is your baby?’ She was nice, you know? Then she was like, ‘Do you mind if I hold her?’ And I was sitting right next to her, right there, so I said OK, and I let her.”
Until lately, Williams, 52, hadn’t spoken publicly about her firstborn child since the week in 1983 when her world fell apart. She kept the memories mostly to herself, buried under a weight of sorrow. In her apartment, she shared the story haltingly, pausing for long stretches to gather her composure.
The woman, cradling April, said the baby needed a diaper change, Williams recalled.
“She said: ‘Oh, I’ll take her to the bathroom. You look tired.’ And I was skeptical, like, “Well . . . OK, I guess.’ Because I was tired. And I thought about it, but I had already said OK, and she had already got up and taken her to the bathroom.
“And then, I don’t know, about 10 minutes later, when she didn’t come back, I started getting nervous.”
Williams struggles every day to…