News 12 at 11 o'clock, February 18, 2010
AUGUSTA---A News 12 investigation is getting the attention of a state agency, and it could mean answers for hundreds of people all over the country looking for their families. We're talking about the victims of Augusta's alleged black market for babies. Many believe judges and a court officer worked to sell children for a profit. A lot of those children, now adults, thought they'd never be able to find their biological parents until now.
As a North Augusta Public Safety officer, Landon Terry solves mysteries for living, and he says "that's pretty ironic, because over the years I've helped a lot of people solve a lot of their problems, and I've had no luck solving my own."
Landon thinks he was ripped from his birth mother's arms and sold when he was born. He doesn't know much about that day. He only has a few documents that name him "Baby Boy Cooper." His mother and father's names are missing from those records, but he wants to find them. Landon says he "would have a lot of closure. A lot of answered questions."
How much does it cost to use the registry? (Source)
What if I don't want to be contacted by the party searching for me? (Source)
"The Reunion Registry cannot release identifying information without written consent of the person being sought or a court order. If you want to protect your right to privacy, you must file an Affidavit of Non-Disclosure with the Adoption Reunion Registry. If there is a court hearing, you may be contacted if you have not filed this affidavit."
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We first met Landon several months ago when he came to News 12 looking for those answers. We tracked down a woman named Barbara Seeger in North Carolina who was looking for answers too, so we set up a meeting between her and Landon.
Landon: "I've never really met a mother looking for their child."
Barbara: "Oh, I will never give up."
Landon is looking for his mother. Barbara is a mother looking for her child. They aren't related, but their search is--because it starts with the same woman, Elizabeth Hamilton, or Bee, as she was known. Bee was an officer with the Richmond County Juvenile Court. She's accused of threatening women like Barbara and taking their babies away from them. She would then allegedly sell the kids, like Landon, and pocket a profit. At least two other judges were allegedly in on this scheme, and it may have happened for decades to hundreds and hundreds of people. After seeing Landon's and Barbara's stories on News 12, one of those hundreds picked up the phone.
"She saw your newscast and got in touch with our investigator, who got in touch with me to let me know we had some work to do together," says Peggy Rothschild, the head of the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry in Atlanta. She's very familiar with the name Bee Hamilton.
Peggy: "She was very sure to do things legally. There's plenty of documentation."
News 12: "So, a lot of these people who thought 'there's not a record of me'...that may not be the case after all?"
Peggy: "Right. That may not be the case at all. There is a good chance there is a record."
Finding that record is the tricky part, but if it exists, Peggy and her team of state investigators can probably find it. According to Peggy, they've "helped most people who've come to the reunion registry who've had some dealings with Bee Hamilton."
So far, Peggy says that's been dozens of people like Landon and Barbara. The problem is, Landon and Barbara didn't know how to find her. Peggy says "a lot of adopted persons and birth parents don't have a clue as to how to get to us."
But now they do, and both Landon and Barbara are in contact with Peggy. Maybe soon, both will be in contact with their families.
That makes Landon "ecstatic, because I've hit so many dead ends over the years, and to hear that somebody can do it is just flabbergasting." So, while Landon investigates crimes in North Augusta, he knows he has a team investigating him in Atlanta. He's hopeful his mystery will finally be solved.
The Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry is a state agency, and there is a fee for investigators to look into your case. It's $300, but they don't want to turn anyone away, so they will work with you on the price. It usually takes anywhere from three to six months to get answers.