Monday, March 3, 2008
In The News Monday
Queens cabbie claims he did 'right thing' for abandoned baby
The cabbie who fooled New York with the heart-tugging tall tale of a baby deserted in his backseat remained unrepentant Sunday night, insisting, "I did the right thing."
Klever Sailema, who went from hero to fraud in less than 48 hours, insisted his big lie was only meant to mask a benevolent attempt to save the adorable 6-month-old girl from being ditched in the cold.
"I feel bad, but ultimately I feel like I did the right thing. My intentions were not to lie to the police," the 45-year-old livery cab driver, an Ecuadoran immigrant, told the Daily News.
The baby, now identified as Daniella Perez, was first abandoned by her 14-year-old mother, who bolted more than a week ago, leaving the brown-eyed little girl with pierced ears in the care of her father, Carlos Rodas, 27, Sailema said.
Sailema said he was dragged into the desperate situation by Rodas' sister - a waitress he's been dating for only two weeks.
The girlfriend, Maria Siavachay, 21, who also spoke to The News Sunday night, helped Rodas dress the infant in a pink outfit and begged Sailema to take her to a Queens fire station Thursday morning.
Sailema was asked to drop Daniella off because he was the only one in the country legally. He said Siavachay pleaded with him after Rodas, a construction worker, walked off, supposedly to go to his job.
"Finally, I said, 'Okay, I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it to help you, but above all to help the baby.' "
Sailema, who is divorced, said his heart went out to the child as he thought of his own three daughters, ages 26, 23 and 8.
"I was afraid the baby might end up abandoned in the bitter cold," he said "I felt so badly for the baby. She was left with no dad and no mom."
The night before Sailema took Daniella to Engine 289 firehouse in Corona, Rodas told his sister of his decision to abandoned the child.
"He said, 'I already thought about this. This is what we are going to do,'" Siavachay told The News.
Siavachay said her brother had revealed his employer of his predicament to his boss, who consulted two lawyers and concluded Rodas couldn't keep the baby because the mother was only 14.
"I felt like disappearing with the baby and not letting her go. But what would I do with the girl," said Siavachay, who left he own 4-year-old daughter with her mother in Ecuador last year to come to America.
Rodas even tried to give the baby to the 14-year-old's parents - but they refused, he told his sister.
Sailema was hailed as a "hero cabbie" when police and firefighters first went public with his concocted story of how he rescued the cute and cuddly child abandoned in the rear of his cab by a mystery man.
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