2021 | Courts

Father held without bond after missing Silver Spring baby was found in New York City

County police say he did not have custody or visitation rights

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The father of a baby girl who was found in New York City after she went missing last month from Silver Spring is being held without bond on charges of harboring an abducted child younger than age 12 and hiding her from her lawful guardian.

Cornelius Smith, 28, of Washington, D.C., is accused of taking the one-year-old girl to the city last month, even though custody belonged to her biological mother, Sandy Barrientos of Silver Spring, according to Montgomery County police.

On Tuesday, District Court Judge Karen Ferretti ordered Smith held without bond after noting during the hearing that in addition to the charges of harboring an abducted child and hiding her from her legal guardian, Smith has a previous charge  from a different case in Charles County of failing to register as a sex offender in Maryland. Ferretti said she is concerned for the safety of Barrientos and the baby, and that Smith presents a danger to society.

As of Wednesday afternoon, court records did not indicate when Smith would next appear in court.

According to charging documents, the girl’s foster parents dropped her off at Barrientos’ Silver Spring home around 9 a.m. Nov. 26 for a scheduled visit. Barrientos, 29, was supposed to return the girl to the foster parents on Nov. 28, but did not do so. The foster parents then contacted county police, the documents state.

Officers tried to contact Barrientos and Smith, but could not reach either one, the documents state. The foster parents then told police that Barrientos held a protective order against Smith and that Smith has not been a part of his daughter’s life. Additionally, Smith did not have custody or visitation rights for his daughter, according to documents.

During the investigation, county police determined that Smith and Barrientos met Nov. 28 in Washington, D.C., and had an argument. D.C. police were called to the scene during the argument and arrested Barrientos and Smith went to an unknown location with the girl, according to documents. It was not clear whether Barrientos was charged with a crime.

County police alerted the public about the disappearance of Smith and his daughter on Nov. 29, and two days later authorities found Smith and the girl in New York City. New York and Montgomery County police officers found the pair Dec. 1 at a homeless shelter in the Bronx after a subway passenger recognized the baby, county police said.

County police and the State’s Attorney’s Office have credited a social media post by the group Black and Missing Inc., a nonprofit aimed at finding missing people of color, with helping to find the infant after the group shared her photo on its website and on social media. Police have said the subway passenger  identified her after seeing the posted photo.

Smith was arrested by New York authorities and was later extradited to Montgomery County.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com