MERCED, CA - A California woman is under investigation after trying to enter a hospital maternity ward carrying a doll that looked like a living baby, police said Friday, but the woman says the dolls are meant to be therapeutic for patients.
Tonya Whitney and a man, whom she later identified as her husband, first went into the hospital on Saturday, each carrying a lifelike doll and drawing suspicion from security officials who told the pair to leave, Merced police Capt. Tom Trindad said.
They returned to Mercy Medical Center on Monday. Police said Whitney — this time wearing nurse's scrubs — again tried to enter the maternity ward. Hospital security took photos of the couple and their contact information, and police notified hospitals in the area of their activity.
"They acted like they were real," hospital spokesperson Robert McLaughlin told ABC News . "They hold them and hug them and change their diapers. It’s very odd."
Whitney, 41, was cited with misdemeanor trespassing and released. The case will be turned over to prosecutors for their consideration.
Police said they were concerned Whitney might have wanted to take a living baby.
But in a television interview given just before she was cited, Whitney said she makes the dolls for a living to give comfort to women who have lost babies or can't have them.
"I'm sorry for the misunderstanding," Whitney told KFSN-TV. "I didn't mean to make anybody feel threatened, or scared, or freaked out."
Whitney said her husband was being treated at the hospital so they decided to visit the maternity ward.
"I take them places with me for advertisement purposes because obviously they speak for themselves," Whitney said. "For the sake of security I've never even considered taking them up into the hospital like we did, but we were suggested by nurses."
Police said Whitney had told officers that she only sought to ask if anyone in the ward wanted to buy one.
"She could understand everybody's concern," Trindad said. "Right now the babies are safe and the hospital did a good job with security."
Whitney's husband was not cited because he did not enter the hospital on his second visit, police said.