News 12 at 6 o'clock, May 5, 2010
AUGUSTA---For months, News 12 has been investigating an alleged black market for babies in Augusta. Hundreds of children may have been ripped from their mother's arms and sold for a profit.
One of those children happened to be watching News 12 one night. What she saw changed her life forever.
Karen Smith had been searching for her mother for 21 years. She never thought she would find her on TV.
"You hadn't got into the broadcast yet, and you said something about the black market babies. And I said, 'Ooooh', perked right up, and I put everything down and never touched the remote again except to turn it up," she said.
As the story got louder, so did the voice in Karen's head telling her the woman featured in the story, Barbara Seeger, could be her mother.
"You would fight heaven and Earth (for your children)," Barbara told us then. "You will fight hell. You will walk on fire for them. Believe me, because it's a part of you."
News 12 found Barbara on an adoption website. She was desperate to find her daughter after she says a court officer by the name of Elizabeth "Bee" Hamilton stole her.
Barbara lives in North Carolina, but she drove to North Augusta to meet with News 12 and a man named Landon Terry who believes Bee sold him too.
"I've never actually met one of the mothers from this whole sordid tale,"
Terry said in the story.
Meanwhile, Karen was in her living room, starting to put together the pieces of the puzzle. Karen realized she was born on the same day, in the same hospital, as Barbara's baby.
"I emailed you that night after I got home from school, and you called me the next morning and you gave me her number. Got off the phone with you and I was talking to her 5 minutes later," Karen recalled.
And five minutes later, there were too many coincidences to ignore. Karen knew her birth mother was 19 at the time of her birth and that her biological father was in the military. Barbara was 19 when she had her baby, and she told Karen her baby's father was deployed at the time.
"My heart was racing," Barbara told News 12. "My mouth got dry. I was trying to catch my breath. There were so many emotions going through my body, and I thought my heart was going to stop."
Two days later, Barbara and Karen were sitting next to each other on a couch, comparing their features, their laughs, and their mannerisms. It was pretty obvious that the two were related.
"It's no doubt," Karen said. "It's in the genes. Not in the upbringing."
"No, it's in the genes," Barbara laughed.
And it's also on paper. Karen's birth certificate had a clue all along: one word that was also on Barbara's records. Karen and her family always thought it was a legal term.
"I said, 'Momma, it's got that word on it: Lied.' Then, she about fell out.
Good thing there was a chair under her. And she said, 'No. That's your last name.' I said, 'I don't think we need any test'," Karen told News 12.
Neither does the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry. State investigators agree that this is enough proof to make it official.
"We don't have to search no more," Karen said.
"We are done," Barbara said. "It is over."
"The search has ended," said Karen.
Now a relationship is beginning, and Karen and Barbara have a lot of catching up to do.
Karen and Barbara have something very special to celebrate this Mother's Day weekend. They are a gift to each other, but they are also a gift to the hundreds of other people out there who also had dealings with Bee Hamilton.
They are the gift of hope.
"I want all of them to continue looking," Barbara says. "Do not, do not, give up."
And here's something funny. The day before Karen met Barbara, she was in the doctor's office for a blood pressure check. She was nervous and anxious, so it was pretty high. She told her doctor she was about to meet a woman who could be her birth mother. The two of them pulled the News 12 story up on the internet right there in the office. The doctor paused the video and said, "You have her nose." So even a doctor noticed the resemblance.
Landon's still looking, but he says he's so happy for Karen and Barbara, and their story gives him hope.
Coming up in Part 6 of News 12's investigation into Augusta's possible black market for babies, we hear from Karen's adoptive Mom about the dealings she had with Bee Hamilton. It's eye-opening, and it shows more people could have been sold on her alleged black market than we first thought.