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A Denver woman is accused of pretending to be pregnant before stealing her step-sister’s baby.

Kristen Smith was found with a prosthetic pregnancy belly, baby clothes and a stroller, but no baby, according to the court documents.

She allegedly abandoned the infant in a plastic storage crate outside an Iowa petrol station as police closed in on her.

The infant, which was only days old, was miraculously alive and well despite frigid temperatures.

The baby was taken to an Iowa City hospital, where he was reunited with his parents and released Friday evening.

The documents allege Ms Smith stole her stepsister’s baby, Kayden, from his bassinet as his parents slept.

The boy’s mother, Brianna Marshall, called police around 4.30am Thursday.

Six-day-old Kayden Powell, pictured after he was found, has been reunited with his parents. Photo: West Branch Police Department

She reported that her newborn had vanished from the home, where she and the baby’s father, Bruce Powell, had been staying, according to police and the affidavit.

After Ms Smith was arrested a search of her mobile phone revealed emails in which she said she gave birth on February 5, according to the court document.

A search of her Facebook page turned up postings in which she claimed she was pregnant.

Ms Smith didn’t appear pregnant, according to the affidavit. A pregnancy test that was administered while she was in custody came back negative, US Attorney John Vaudreuil said.

Police interviewed Ms Smith again after Kayden was discovered, the affidavit said, and she admitted she had taken the baby and left him at the BP station.

Federal prosecutors charged Ms Smith with kidnapping on Friday afternoon.

She faces life in prison if convicted.