For a week, John and Bridget Etoh searched for their missing daughter. She hadn’t responded to several phone calls, and they feared she was off her medication and wandering the streets of Chicago.
They finally found Olachi Etoh on Wednesday, her mugshot on the homepage of every news website in the city, charged with grabbing a 2-year-old boy at O'Hare International Airport.
“She’s not a criminal,” said Bridget Etoh. “She’s had mental issues since 2008, and has been off her medications recently. She’s never even gotten a speeding ticket.”
Police say Olachi Etoh, 24, picked up a 2-year-old boy standing near his mother at O’Hare International Airport’s baggage area around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. The boy’s mother intervened as Etoh tried to leave down an escalator, the boy in her arms.
The boy’s mother, Carla Gonzalez, said she was at the airport with her two children, ages 1 and 2, waiting to pick up her boyfriend and his parents. Gonzalez said she saw Etoh taking the escalator to the lower-level baggage area of Terminal 3.
Gonzalez said Etoh approached her and began to play with Gonzalez’s 2-year-old son, Lupe, exclaiming how cute he was. Suddenly, she lifted him up in her arms and took him onto the down escalator a few feet away. “I said, ‘What are you doing?’ and then thought, ‘Oh my goodness, is this really happening?” Gonzalez said.
With her 1-year-old in her arms, she said she hopped onto the escalator and caught up with Etoh and confronted her. Etoh refused to hand over Lupe, and Gonzalez said she grabbed Lupe, almost knocking Etoh down, she said.
“I was in shock for a little bit after that,” Gonzalez said. “You never think that stuff will happen to you.”
Several people witnessed the kidnapping, she said, but no one tried to assist her.
Etoh was charged with aggravated kidnapping and battery, and was ordered held on $450,000 bail by Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. Wednesday. He also granted prosecutors’ request of a special condition to the bond, prohibiting Etoh from contacting the victim or going to her home or workplace. She is also banned from entering O’Hare.
Her parents, who live in Maryland, insist their daughter is not a criminal and, due to her mental illness, likely believed the 2-year-old boy was her nephew.
Her parents said they began to worry when their daughter failed to return several calls last week. Etoh’s mother said she tried to file a missing person report with Chicago police, and then travelled to Chicago for a few days to search for her daughter. She returned to Maryland after being unable to track her down.
Her parents said they were unable to fly to Chicago in time for her court appearance today and tried to reach the public defender's and inform officials of their daughter's problems.
“She’s all alone and this is all over the papers and TV,” her mother said. “This is why I contacted the police. I was trying to prevent something like this. She’s been running around with a mental illness.”
“If I could fly over there right now, I would,” she added.
At Etoh’s court appearance Wednesday, the judge made no mention of Etoh’s mental illness, though it is likely he was aware because inmates are screened before appearing in bond court, said Assistant Public Defender Brett Gallagher. She said anyone with an illness or on medication is flagged.
John Etoh said his daughter attended a girls private high school in Maryland before attending Boston University. She transferred to the University of Baltimore due to her illness, and graduated cum laude from the Merrick School of Business with a degree in international business, he said.
She moved to Chicago in order to attend medical school at Loyola University, he said. He speculates Etoh stopped taking her medicine after being laid off as an account manager at CDW, a tech company where she worked for a year.
“She needs to be in a hospital, not a jail," John Etoh said."We just want to make sure she gets the help she needs."