Ashwaubenon woman accused of kidnapping baby, stalking day care workers

Rena Sterling is accused of taking a 1-year-old relative and stalking people at a daycare center.
Rena Sterling is accused of taking a 1-year-old relative and stalking people at a daycare center.(Brown County Jail)
Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 9:48 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Daycare workers in Ashwaubenon say over the past month a woman stalked them and tried to lure children with money. Hours after the child-care center reported her to public safety officers, Green Bay police say she kidnapped a 1-year-old boy.

Rena Sterling, 56, is charged with abduction/child-taking, stalking, and disorderly conduct. The first two charges are felonies that could result in over 18 years in prison if convicted.

According to the criminal complaint, Green Bay police were called to a home on Packerland Drive on the evening of Thursday, July 7. The family said their aunt, Rena Sterling, came over. While playing outside the house, the parents said they went inside for two minutes to get a leaf blower and Sterling and their one-year-old son were gone when they came back out. The parents searched the neighborhood and then called police. They said their aunt has mental health issues but they wanted to press charges.

Police officers flooded area parks, attractions, businesses and streets. Following a tip, an officer found Sterling sitting on a lawn chair with the baby on the front lawn of a house on the city’s near-east side. The police officer said Sterling didn’t seem coherent. She said she was asked to babysit the child and didn’t do anything wrong. She also said she took the baby because she thought there were drugs in the house and wanted to get him checked at a hospital, but she was taking a break with the baby first. She also said she got a ride from a nice man who dropped them off in the area. It was Sterling’s second run-in with police that day.

Early Thursday afternoon, Ashwaubenon Public Safety officers were called to a daycare for a complaint about a suspicious woman calling to children through the gate. During the incident on July 7, when daycare workers steered the kids away from the fence, she pointed at the children and sang “No one likes you, no one is your friend.” She told a worker, “I’m a watchdog and I’ve been watching all of you. I watch this place during the day and night.” And when the worker told Sterling she wasn’t welcome on the property, Sterling replied, “Watch the news.”

Officers learned there were at least four incidents at the daycare center over the last month with Sterling trying to lure children to the fence. One time she approached with balloons. One time she handed out money -- prompting a worker to bring the kids inside, lock the door, and make the kids wash their hands with soap and water.

Another worker told officers Sterling followed her and her son when they left the center. Sterling kept asking questions as she followed closer and closer. The worker called the incident “uncomfortable” and “terrifying.”

Online records show Sterling was appointed a public defender Monday and will be back in court next week.

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