News 12 at 11 o'clock, May 5, 2010
AUGUSTA---A News 12 investigation into a black eye on Augusta's past is showing there could be even more people involved than we first thought. It all goes back to a few judges and a court officer. They are accused of taking children and selling them for a profit. Now News 12 has learned some people who supposedly bought these kids never had a clue they could have been part of a black market for babies.
Billie Halvorsen had trouble getting pregnant, but she knew she wanted to be a mom. She remembers, "I could love any child. I was just ready for a baby."
She asked her doctor about adoption. It didn't take long to get the call. She was at work when she heard "your baby was born yesterday at St. Joseph's hospital, and you can pick her up Monday."
Billie knew she loved her new little girl immediately. What she didn't know? Another woman loved that little girl too.
"There was a cop, more than once, standing outside the hospital," claims Barbara Seeger. "They were waiting for you to walk out that door with a baby if you did not sign those papers."
Barbara says a juvenile court officer named Elizabeth Hamilton, or Bee, put the police officers there as a threat. She felt she had no choice but to give Bee her daughter. "I don't know what I could have done to fight back because I was 19 years old and scared to death. Absolutely horrified of Bee Hamilton."
When News 12 started looking into Bee and her adoptions, we tracked down Barbara at her home in North Carolina. She came to North Augusta to tell us her story, and someone very important was watching News 12 that night.
Karen Smith, Billie's adopted daughter, was in her living room after just returning home from school. She saw Barbara on our broadcast and started putting the pieces together. She thought she could be her daughter. "I was like, nervous, excited, anxious. I had all these feelings. I was like...oh my goodness. I'm going to have a heart attack."
Karen contacted News 12, and we put Barbara and Karen in touch. Karen knew it was meant to be. "Momma and I, we've always prayed that when this day is right, that day will come, and here it is today."
News 12 was there as Karen and Barbara met for the first time. You can really see the resemblance, and if that wasn't enough, they compared birth certificates. They are a perfect match. "We were going to talk about having a DNA test," says Billie. "We don't need a DNA test."
Neither does the state of Georgia. Investigators say the documents answer all their questions. Now, Barbara is getting other answers too. Billie told Barbara she was in the dark about Bee Hamilton and her alleged black market. "I didn't know at that time you were looking for her and that all this was happening to you."
Billie never got suspicious, either, when it came to money. Everything seemed to add up.
News 12: "So, you would just get bills from the court and pay them?"
Billie: Yes, yes. Everything that I did was through the court."
That leads to this question: if Billie didn't know about Bee's alleged black market, how many other people out there also didn't know? There could be hundreds more, and it's not too late to find them.
"My heart went out to Barbara," says Billie, "thinking how long she searched for her and knowing how I would love for someone to come to my aid and hear about me and help me find her."
Now, Billie, Barbara, and Karen are helping others by telling their story. They know it works. A News 12 story is what brought them together after all these years.