Skip to main content

tv   Dateline  MSNBC  May 27, 2018 3:00am-4:00am PDT

3:00 am
i'm sure -- over time everything's been getting better, but i'm still not ready to be trusting everyone so easily. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline". i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. i'm craig melvin. i'm natalie morales. this is "dateline." her name is pepper. i lived a secret life. she was kidnapped at age 4. we got in the car and we never went back. she spent decades trying to find her way home again and she finally made it. or so she thought. i said i think i'm rhonda christy or do you know her? >> there was a long pause.
3:01 am
pepper's story had many ups and downs. >> when i looked at the e-mail, i couldn't even believe it. >> but after so many tears, so many years and so many turns in her story. >> i said whoa -- >> there are still more stunning twists to be revealed. >> that's amazing. the best gift ever. welcome to "dateline." a 4-year-old girl was abducted and raised by her kidnapper. for decades, she searched for her family and her identity. her story has an extraordinary ending. but as it turns out, that ending was just the beginning. here is keith morrison. our story begins with this
3:02 am
mother of a teenage daughter. a woman who spent most of her life trying to figure out who she was. what was her name? where did she come from? we'll tell you about her long search, her discovery finally of what felt like proof. but as you'll soon see, real truth can be elusive. it can hide. let's begin at the beginning. but at the beginning, all she had was a memory. >> a twin canopy bed with pink ruffles around it. kind of waves over the top of it. >> it was dream-like really. for years, it was all that felt real in her upside down life. >> and it was all pink and t full of dresses, the dolls, the teddy bears.
3:03 am
>> actually, there was a little old-fashioned where you put the baby in the wagon. >> and reason for those tormenting memories. >> it's a lot of hurt and sadness. sadness for the little girl that didn't have a life. >> for most of her life, the part after that she has been pepper and the baffling, terrifying story of her being kidnapped, held captive for years is the reason she gripped that life preserver of a memory. shocking where that memory will lead by the end of this hour. she was certain of this an only child and spoiled most likely, showered with attention by toys and dresses. they're in a little apartment was -- was san diego perhaps. >> it looks like a happy childhood, like love was there. >> two parents, blond beehive on her mother. but her mother's name lost now.
3:04 am
there was a nickname, bobby. in the early years, she was always, always there. her father, on the other hand, was absent mostly. long stretches away, punctuated by reunions when she's bustled off to the harbor where the navy ships come in. >> he was coming in from the navy. it was an exciting moment and she would get us all dressed up in anticipation of going to the shipyard and having a lot of attention. i think as a child. >> the memories are how she survived it all, of course. all the trouble. >> holding my mom's hand. having fun with my mom. being in the moment of joy. i don't have sad memories. >> oh, yes. those. the bad memories. like the day everything good went away. it was 1973. though she and her happy little childhood bubble had no idea what year it was.
3:05 am
she knows she was not yet five that someone came to the door with a plan. >> i remember a woman coming over and knocking on the door. >> her name was shirley. a friend of her mother's she said. she said she brought renee with her. renee was 6. a little older then. it didn't matter. they dashed off to her bedroom to play. this is renee now. that room is stuck in her memory, too. >> her room was gorgeous. a nice-sized room for a little kid. she had a canopy bed. she ha tons of dresses, toys, galore. >> i was like wow, this is nice. >> an alien world to renee. the most wonderful thing she had ever seen. >> while the little girls played in the bedroom. shirley was with bobby in the living room talking and then she called renee. >> when it was time to leave, i didn't want to go. i said can we stay longer. but your new friend is coming with us. i said okay. she came and that's how
3:06 am
everything started. >> so it did. it was to be an overnight. the girls were told. a little fun. they'd stay with shirley in her motel room and return the next morning. that was the plan said shirley. but shirley lied. >> we got in the car and we never went back. my life completely changed from that point on. completely. >> this woman took you away. >> you weren't taken home again. never back again. >> do you remember that feeling? >> yes. it was -- i wanted to go home. >> she had been kidnapped. must have been. there was no little girl's overnight in shirley's motel room. they stopped to pack belongings, hit the road and a blissful childhood -- the memory of the beautiful bedroom all she had to confront the nightmare just beginning. coming up -- on the road with her kidnapper.
3:07 am
>> i knew that everything that was happening to us was completely wrong at a very, very young age. >> when "dateline" continues s chs. protect your pet with the #1 name in flea and tick protection. frontline plus. trusted by vets for nearly 20 years.
3:08 am
proven to protect street skaters and freestylers. stops up to 97% uv. lasts through heat. through sweat. coppertone. proven to protect.
3:09 am
happiness is powerful flea and tick protection from nexgard. nexgard kills fleas and ticks all month long. and it comes in an easy-to-give tasty chew. and that makes dogs and owners happy. no wonder vets love it too. reported side effects include vomiting, itching, diarrhea, lethargy and lack of appetite. see your vet for more information on flea and tick protection you and your dog will love. nexgard. the vet's #1 choice.
3:10 am
we're experts in connecting your advertising message to welcothe right audience.ight. we can connect to your audiences wherever they are and however they watch whether on their tv, laptop or mobile device. and to make sure they don't miss your message, we give you access to advertise on over fifty networks, sharing it on the hottest shows, digital sites, and mobile destinations. work with some of the best media experts in the business. get started at comcastspotlight.com.
3:11 am
the story you'll hear now lives in the vivid so real you could touch them memories of two frightened girls that began in a motel whose l.a. neighborhood was most decidedly not child
3:12 am
friendly. it was to be a one night sleepover with a new friend renee with a woman named shirley who didn't take her home again. she packed belongings, took the girls in a car and didn't take them home again. where did they go? she had no idea. she knew she had a new name. they called her pepper. pepper smith. she was not yet five years old. >> we lived in cars and motels and going from state to state staying at salvation armys to get a meal here and there. >> what's it like to live in a car? >> it's horrible. it's embarrassing. >> she was confused, of course, and terribly frightened at first. she begged. take me home. shirley ignored her. she imagined running away. >> i had nowhere to go. i was too scared. >> then as the weeks and months and then years went by, as her powers of reasoning grew, the
3:13 am
question grew, too. did her mother, bobbi, actually give her away? shirley told pepper that renee was her sister. the two girls listened wide-eyed as shirley explained to strangers that she was their grandmother, that their parents had been killed in a car accident. >> i knew that everything that was happening to us was completely wrong at a very, very young age. >> why had she been taken? she didn't know. not for money certainly. there were no ransom demand. without pepper's birth sert, shirley couldn't use her to score public assistance. though she did use renee that way. frightened, compliant renee. eager for a mother's love. >> i never wanted to do anything wrong. i felt like if i did something wrong or whatever, she wouldn't love me. she would give me away. >> wouldn't love me? shirley told her, says renee,
3:14 am
that she was born to a prostitute drug addict named geri, that shirley saved her, raised her as a daughter. but kept renee in line by threatening to abandon her. >> did she ever threaten to do that? >> yeah. any time we did something wrong, she would say, well, you stop doing that or i'm going to send you off to geri's house. >> so they lived a life of packing up and fleeing one flop house to the next and skip out, hunger constant. medical care, nonexistent. when money ran out, as it often did, shirley drove to the nearest truck stop. the girls would bed down in the car and watch shirley sneak off to do, they didn't know. alone and frightened, they held on to each other and watched the shadows of strange men pass by their car until the night went, terrified and unable to sleep.
3:15 am
renee followed shirley. >> she's taking a long time and i'm thinking she left or she died or something. so i go in to where they work on the cars. she's like on the side over here. and he's on top of her. and i didn't know what was going on. i got scared and she seen me. she yelled out and said get out of here. go. >> at least then they had a bit of money. but always pepper was afraid. afraid to ask for help. afraid to ask why she had been taken. afraid of shirley's threats. >> she would scare us to believe that we were in a better place. she was doing something good for us. >> did you ever understand why she wouldn't take you back home? >> her personality was very up and down, like very angry and so if i asked questions, she would say stuff like, if you want to find your mom, she's on the
3:16 am
streets shooting heroin. >> tirades were frequent, neglect part of life. verbal and physical abuse a regular occurrence. >> she would whip us with the belt, slap us, verbally cuss at us. verbally abuse us. >> threaten to send you away. >> i just felt -- if you take it, hard to explain. if you just take it, it -- she get out of the rage faster, so to speak. >> they went to school when they could. made very few friends. lost the ones they did make. struggled to be ordinary kids and then normal teenagers. >> all i wanted to be is loved. that's it. i never got any kind of love that i wanted. instead, they were trapped. truck stop nomads in the care of a woman who seemed kidnapped if
3:17 am
not one but both of them. they seemed dumped across a number of state lines for years. sometime in the early 80s, they settled down here. shirley pulled up to this motel in los angeles county and took a job as the motel's cleaning woman in exchange for a free room. if it wasn't much, at least it gave them a measure of stability and they signed up at a local school, junior high for pepper, high school for renee. much to shirley's disapproval. >> shirley would tell us, girls don't go to school, they get married. why do you want to go to school? i didn't like being late to school. i didn't like being absent all the time. >> so they got themselves up every morning and went to school and kept going. and then, pepper was 12. eight of those years with shirley when she saw her chance to escape and seized it. she made herself useful as a
3:18 am
baby-sitter to the couple next door in room 109. when the family moved out of the motel, pepper went with them. but it didn't last long. pepper's new household caught in alcoholism was as troubled and messy as hers was. she moved back to 110 colonial motel even though by then shirley didn't seem to care much what she did. >> i remember when i was trying to, so call runaway, plot my escape, before it went into action, i was in my mind going, i'm going to show her, like i remember thinking that, but she didn't care. she didn't come to get me. >> still, having tasted freedom once, pepper was determined to get away from her kidnapper for good. a second time she took a chance, moved out to the family and a second time had to return. and then finally, by the time she turned 16, pepper left for
3:19 am
good. that meant she left renee behind too. renee who so needed pepper and was alone now with shirley. >> she was my best friend growing up. that was my best friend. we did everything together. we fight like sisters. we did everything together. >> renee was feeling abandoned. >> i told her, don't go. stay here. i need you. you're my sister. so she went. she did her thing. i was upset and i was sad. by 1986 and on her own now, she had all but given up she'd find her own parents. she encountered a more immediate problem. the inevitable problem with no real name, to birth certificate, no i.d. she was enrolled in school under the name rhonda smith at shirley's urging, she had no way to prove this was her legal name. without some cooperation from shirley, her search for such documents seemed hopeless. and then -- how did you find out
3:20 am
that she was sick? >> she turned completely yellow and diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer. she died quickly after that. >> with shirley on her deathbed, pepper tried to be the dutifully daughter. there was another reason to see her, maybe the most important. one last opportunity to find out who she was. >> as she was dying, did you try to find -- maybe she'd make a deathbed confession and say i did take you and here are your parents' names and how to find them, any of ha happen? did you ask? >> oh, yeah. >> and shirley had a response for the girl she renamed pepper. the question was, what could she do with that answer? >> announcer: coming up. if jaycee duggar could be found after 18 years, certainly there must be hope for pepper? >> it triggered a lot of personal memories.
3:21 am
how commie didn't get found. i felt still missing. >> would she be missing much longer when "dateline" continues. and the safey for "most parallel parallel parking job" goes to... [ drum roll ] ...emily lapier from ames, iowa. this is emily's third nomination and first win.
3:22 am
um...so, just...wow! um, first of all, to my fellow nominees, it is an honor sharing the road with you. and of course, to the progressive snapshot app for giving good drivers the discounts -- no, i have to say it -- for giving good drivers the discounts they deserve. safe driving! for giving good drivers the discounts they deserve. at&t provides edge-to-edge intelligence, covering virtually every part of your manufacturing business. & so this won't happen. because you've made sure this sensor and this machine are integrated. & she can talk to him, & yes... atta, boy. some people assign genders to machines. and you can be sure you won't have any problems. except for the daily theft of your danish. not cool! at&t provides edge to edge intelligence. it can do so much for your business,
3:23 am
the list goes on and on. that's the power of &. & this shipment will be delivered... the girl they called pepper smith sat at the deathbed of the woman who had stolen her with questions burning. she had to know who was she, who were her parents, what was her
3:24 am
true identity and at the very least, where could she find the documents that could give her a real life? she took a roundabout route, she asked the question indirectly. >> i took driver's ed. i want to be free. i want to go work and be free from all of this. i have a plan. i asked her for -- i need my birth certificate. i need this. she told me, they changed the laws. you can't get your driver's license until you're 18 years old. yeah. i'm supposed to believe this as i sit in the classroom with friends getting permits. she took the lies with her. she was not going to tell. >> what about the birth certificate. >> never gave me a concrete answer, nothing. couldn't get anything out of her. the lies stayed with her. >> shirley knew the answers, of course. knew the whole bizarre story. but she looked pepper in the eye through her obvious pain and
3:25 am
told her nothing. she left the lies behind and took the truth to her gave on july 29, 1986. at the age of 63. she was buried here. this cemetery in an unmarked grave. renee, now 19, got on with life. moved in with her boyfriend. pepper showed up at her apartment, homeless and nowhere else to turn to. everywhere pepper went, shirley's poisoned gift followed because of that woman and what she did. pepper was officially a nonperson. so it took a little while for determination to come back. she was in her mid-20s, a single mother by then. if only she could find her birth certificate, that could lead her to her parents. anyway, she needed documents to live. she needed a passport. so she contacted state offices. their departments of vital records with perhaps predictable results. >> tell me what it feels like when you know you have to go to
3:26 am
an official and ask for something that you really, really, really need and you kind of know you think you know how it's going to go? >> i get emotional usually. i usually cry. it just brings me to the sad place. >> sitting across the desk from somebody crying. >> oh, absolutely. >> and they -- >> they would say i can't do anything for you. >> you need this document. this is what you need to provide. >> sorry. >> i have no way to get this document because i don't know my parents' name and i don't know my real name. pepper. >> once again, pepper felt perhaps understandably, like giving up. by then she was living with her daughter in south lake tahoe working as a waitress. what do you know, hometown girl jaycee dugard kidnapped years and years earlier was found. >> everybody with joy. i was happy for her.
3:27 am
it triggered a lot of my own personal memories and how commie didn't get found. i felt so lonely. >> once again, charged up with determination, she launched a fresh attempt. turns out there's such a thing as adult adoption. find someone to adopt her. even if she couldn't find her parents, she could get an official identity and a parent. a friend offered to adopt her. so pepper and friend applied and waited. something quite amazing happened. someone in that great california bureaucracy did some research. someone talked to pepper, asked her questions, found records. all pepper could offer were the names, bob and bobbi and the date of her birth and somehow buried among all those files in all their hundreds of millions a match and there it was.
3:28 am
came in the mail. after all these years a copy of her actual birth certificate. the key to unlock her past. though she had no idea then looking at that birth certificate that the appropriate question should have been this? was this her real past? >> coming up, a journey ending? this is it? >> or was it just beginning when "dateline" continues. hey scout, what's with the itchys and scratchys? it's these fleas and ticks. ow! i'm getting bit like crazy. got any ideas for me? well, not all products work the same. that's why my owner gives me k9 advantix ii. it kills fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes. mosquitoes too? yep. kills all three through contact - no biting required. wish my owner knew about k9 advantix ii. ow! well...could be worse. -ooh. glorious. protect against the bites that can spread disease. k9 advantix ii. wise choice.
3:29 am
♪ protect your pet with the #1 name in flea and tick protection. frontline plus. trusted by vets for nearly 20 years. but as it grew bigger and bigger,ness. it took a whole lot more. that's why i switched to the spark cash card from capital one. with it, i earn unlimited 2% cash back on everything i buy. everything. what's in your wallet? woman: i stay active by staying in rhythm.
3:30 am
and to keep up this pace, i drink boost optimum. boost optimum with 5 in 1 advanced nutrition helps support muscle, energy, bone, normal immune function, and vision. boost optimum. be up for life. ok, i...is it...? boost optimum. clearblue digital pregnancy test... ...with smart countdown, gives unmistakably clear... ...results written in words. over 99% accurate. absolute clarity,
3:31 am
i'm dara brown with the top stories. president trump welcomed home an american held for two years in a venezuelan jail. josh holt had been through a tough ordeal. holt said he was overwhelmed with gratitude. florida, alabama and mississippi launching emergency preparations ahead of the arrival of subtropical storm alberto. the system expected to cause problems over the holiday weekend. high winds and heavy rain.
3:32 am
now back to "dateline." welcome back to "dateline." i'm craig melvin. the woman known as pepper finally has the papers she's waited for most of her life to find. her birth certificate. but where would that little piece of paper lead? here again is keith morrison. for 37 years she'd been searching for her parents, her life, her name. now just as she'd given up ever finding the answer, here it was. a copy of her birth certificate with her real name in bcknd white. rhonda patricia christie there were the names of her parents too. robert and barbara christie. >> this is it. whoa. bobby and bob. they were my parents. bobbi and bob. with the names and social
3:33 am
security numbers. she tracked down a phone number in iowa. she dialed the number. a man answered. it was june 5, 2010. i said are you robert christie. he said yes. i said are you married to a barbara black welder or were you married? i didn't know. he said yes. then i said, i think i'm rhonda christie or do you know rhonda patricia christie. >> this is who she was talking to. his name is bob christie. >> i almost dropped the phone. she knew i had hesitated. she said this is your daughter rhonda. it was something that clicked in my mind that i recognize -- the voice rang a bell. >> and he called to my mom, barbara, to pick up the phone. said rhonda is on the phone. she picked up the phone and the first thing out of her mouth is shirley stole you.
3:34 am
>> pepper was shaking inside and out. i went into like a -- the most emotions i think i've ever had in my entire life ever. >> the memories were true or so it certainly seemed. she got on a plane for ohio. they were all of course 37 years older and in a way strangers now. but here they were. all the images she had clung to in fantasy, dreamed about for those 37 long years. >> there you are in your bath. >> all those rolls, too. >> chubby little baby. >> look at you. just learning to walk. and smiling in the hallway. you had a good life, honey. >> so it was happy and sad, comforting. but also deeply strange. because sitting on this couch, pepper heard some stunning revelations. such as? these were not her birth
3:35 am
parents. she had been adopted. the arrangement was mysterious. and now it was barbara's turn to tell a story. shirley had been her friend, she said. had told her about a woman working in the sex trade named geri smith who didn't want her babies. one day shirley showed up at barbara's house with a 3-month-old caldron da patricia smith. barbara could see it was iffy. but she wanted that baby so badly. so she ignored the red flags. >> nope. didn't care. didn't really care. >> she was going to see to it, she said, that rhonda was loved and cared for by the best parents she could ever possibly have. bob and barbara legally adopted their little princess four years later in the fall of 1973. it was shortly after that, said barbara, when shirley and renee showed up at her door.
3:36 am
>> the kids played together and we visited together and she asked if rhonda could come spend the night with renee. took me a while to get answer to that. i really had to think about that hard. i'm one of these tender hearted people and i said, well, i want her to know her sister. >> sister? yes. barbara told them they were sisters. daughters of the same mother, the woman who worked the streets. barbara said by then, she didn't trust shirley with rhonda. but -- >> i want rhonda to know her sister. i wanted her to have family and stuff. i asked bob, and he said no. she couldn't at first. and then he relented. let her go. next morning we went to get her and they were gone. >> and they didn't come back. >> bob and barbara called the
3:37 am
police right away, of course. here's what they were told. that the pole could do nothing for them since they had allowed rhonda to leave with shirley. they were on their own. and so desperate, they said, they started their own search. discovered shirley had taken the girls to a relative's house several states away. when they got there, it was too late. all that remained sitting on the porch were the little red shoes rhonda wore the day she was kidnapped. it was hopeless. they returned to their childless home. nothing left but the photographs of the little girl who stopped growing up for them at 4. and now, out of the blue that phone call and here she was. >> it's definitely a gift. >> we got a granddaughter. >> just in time, it turns out. barbara had terminal cancer. she would die a year later. still, they celebrated.
3:38 am
renee joined them for rhonda's birthday and the christ yes's 38th wedding anniversary. an amazing reunion. "dateline" was happy to broadcast it around the country on march 25, 2011. no idea that something quite unbelievable would happen. because one of the people who tuned in that night was a woman named geri. and oh, what a story she had to tell. >> it was a story two sisters waited a very long time to hear. coming up -- >> 99.99% probability. that means it's confirmed. >> when "dateline" continues. ♪ protect your pet with the #1 name in flea and tick protection. frontline plus. trusted by vets for nearly 20 years.
3:39 am
whimper yap yap ya yip isoudog trng to tell you something? licking, scratching, scooting, and rubbing may be signs of allergic itch, a medical condition that may require treatment. that's why there's prescription apoquel: the revolutionary medicine that's giving millions of dogs the relief they deserve. apoquel goes to the source of the itch to provide relief in as little as 4 hours. woof and apoquel is safe without many of the side effects associated with the use of steroids. apoquel is for the control of itch associated with allergic dermatitis and the control of atopic dermatitis in dogs. do not use apoquel in dogs less than 12 months old or those with serious infections. apoquel may increase the chance of developing serious infections and may cause existing parasitic skin infestations or pre-existing cancers to worsen. do not use in breeding, pregnant, or lactating dogs. most common side effects are vomiting and diarrhea.
3:40 am
don't wait. ask your veterinarian about apoquel today. apoquel. it's itch relief worth barking about. bark my gums are irritated. i don't have to worry about that, do i? actually, you do. harmful bacteria lurk just below the gum line, and if you're not taking care of your gums, you're not taking care of your mouth. so now i use this. crest gum detoxify. introducing new crest gum detoxify... it works below the gum line and is clinically proven to neutralize harmful plaque bacteria and help reverse early gum damage. new gum detoxify, from crest. gums are good. so is my check up! crest. healthy, beautiful smiles for life. proven to protect street skaters and freestylers. stops up to 97% uv. lasts through heat. through sweat. coppertone. proven to protect.
3:41 am
happiness is powerful flea and tick protection from nexgard. nexgard kills fleas and ticks all month long. and it comes in an easy-to-give tasty chew. and that makes dogs and owners happy. no wonder vets love it too. reported side effects include vomiting, itching, diarrhea, lethargy and lack of appetite. see your vet for more information on flea and tick protection you and your dog will love. nexgard. the vet's #1 choice. if his denture can cope with... a steak. luckily for him, he uses super poligrip. it helps give him 65% more chewing power. leaving brad to dig in and enjoy. super poligrip.
3:42 am
when we first told you the story about pepper smith and her lifelong journey to find her family, identity, it was in march 2011, the following monday morning. >> my office received a call. and then i received an e-mail. >> attorney gloria allred found herself looking at a remarkable message. she had been helping the girls deal with their identity issues. there it was. the ping of a message on her blackberry. >> when i looked at the e-mail, i just couldn't even believe t i looked at it about three times. am i really seeing this? >> it was a woman claiming to be
3:43 am
the biological mother of both pepper and renee. claiming to be the woman who, according to shirley and barbara, was a child abandoning, drug add ld prostitute who was probably dead. could this woman really be their mother? hardly a claim allred could take on faith. >> i asked her to come in to see me the very next day. she was anxious and happy to do. i asked her to bring whatever evidence she had. >> and in that meeting the woman presented her evidence. >> she brought some photos that she had of pepper and renee when they were very little. >> she told allred she was a waitress when the girls were little. brought a photo of that, too. and a picture of shirley and also a photo of a man she said was the girls' father. long since dead. she said her name was geri. >> i asked her immediately, geri, would you be willing to do
3:44 am
a dna test? she said i'll take the dna test, but these are my children. i know it. >> allred put the dna test on a fast track and waited. within a week, called pepper and renee to her office to hear in person the results of the test. >> 99.99% probability. that means it's confirmed. >> that's it. i can't believe this is actually happening. i really can't right now. >> how soon could they meet geri the sisters. what's she like. how did she know shirley? we arranged a reunion for the next day. geri arrived first and told us how she saw her long lost girls on our program. >> i saw the picture of shirley. i went crazy. i was hysterical. i knew this is who she was. then when i saw the girls, i knew they were mine. >> after all those years of looking. >> there they are.
3:45 am
>> what did that feel like? >> it felt great. i was hoping i could find my children before i died because i'm getting old. i would just like a miracle. >> geri's story. the shirley who took the girls had been her friend. turned roommate, turned baby-sitter. >> she said, i'll baby-sit for you and i'll take care of her while you work. i said, well, that's great. because i really thought i was blessed. >> first it was renee she looked after, then renee and pepper and then two years later, little brother leonard smith jr. wait, brother? it wasn't just the two girls. there was a younger brother the girls never knew they had. the father wasn't around very much. geri supported them all with what she could make as a waitress. then shirley made a change, a positive one it seemed, financially. >> she got this job supposedly at the motel managing.
3:46 am
which was further from where i worked. i arranged with her to watch the kids while i worked. >> it was a godsend really since geri had to be hospitalized for weeks after raymond was born. and then get back to work. and find a new home to take the kids to. >> i come out there on my days off and stay with the kids and spend time with them. so then i had called her and told her that i was coming to get the kids and then the next day i went out there and gone. >> not a sign of them. no kids. no shirley. frantic then, she went to the police. >> what did you tell them? your children had been kidnapped? >> yeah. they took the report. that's the last i heard. >> did you go back and talk to them again? >> i went down there two or three times, they told me the same thing. >> geri didn't know who else to talk to. so she looked on her own and found year after year, nothing.
3:47 am
had no idea she said, that shirley had left pepper with barbara, that barbara persuaded a court that pepper had essentially been abandoned and could be adopted or that shirley stole her back again and there they were telling their story on "dateline." telling how shirley and barbara had described her. >> yes, i heard what they said about me. i was not a streetwalker. i was a waitress all my life. >> they also said you didn't really want your children. you were happy to abandon them. >> i never abandoned my children. never. ever. would never ever do that. >> she wasn't a drug addict either, she says. she's not had a smooth or easy life. for much of it she has missed her children and blamed herself for what happened. >> trusting shirley. >> yes. >> and for not having those kids
3:48 am
under your wing all the time. >> that's right. >> to me, i feel like it was my fault because i put them in the hands of this monster. >> we're in the hotel room in los angeles. geri is eager, anxious, terrified, visibly shaking. and then they come around the corner. their first meeting of 37 years. >> it's a lifetime we've missed. >> oh, my god. >> i feel like i'm dreaming still. i can't really get it yet. >> can't do -- >> i'm sad because i was there with you guys. >> you're my mom?
3:49 am
>> you're my babies. you're my babies. it's been 37 years. >> just about here as they cling and cry, something rather magical happens. the center of gravity shifts. >> what happened? what happened? >> it's renee who wants the answers now. >> what happened? >> you will know. you will know. i promise you. >> you will connect. you were illegally adopted. >> what happened to me? she was adopted. but what happened to me? how commie could never find you ever. >> i thought i'd never find you either. i searched and i searched and i searched. i had no money. >> come on, honey. >> it's okay. >> i was -- >> i loved you.
3:50 am
both of you. i could never not love you. >> i was so mad at you. >> i'm sure you were. >> i was so mad at you. >> i thought you gave me away. >> no. >> they spent hours together here talking about their pasts. their likes and their likes and dislikes. their amazing similarities. we gave them a few weeks to get to know each other, and then sat down again with pepper and renee. so there it is. you have your mother, but what now? are you -- will you have a relationship with her? >> well, we're going to move her in with me. >> move into your house? >> yes, yes, once she gets all her affairs in order. we're going to move her in. >> why? >> because i want her. my husband wants her, too, there, so. i want to have a relationship with my mom. like i was telling you earlier, i want to go shopping.
3:51 am
i want to have lunch. i want to go buy stuff. i want to have christmas, thanksgiving, her there with me. >> and pepper? well, for one thing, pepper has adopted her real birth name, the one that her parents gave her before it was lost in the abductions and the documents, it's ronique. ronique smith. >> i feel very content of finding out who i am, finding my mom, and my real identity and my biological father, and the fixtures of him and all of the exciting things going on. but i think it's not over yet. i don't feel that the journey is quite over yet. it is just starting. this part of it is just starting. >> so it is, because of course, one of them is still missing. >> coming up -- >> our brother, raymond, is still missing. >> we know that he is out there somewhere. >> when "dateline" continues.
3:52 am
protect your pet with the #1 name in flea and tick protection. frontline plus. trusted by vets for nearly 20 years.
3:53 am
each day justin at work... walk. and after work. he does it all with dr. scholl's. only dr. scholl's has massaging gel insoles that provide all-day comfort. to keep him feeling more energized. dr. scholl's. born to move. fthere's flonase sensimist.f up around pets.
3:54 am
it relieves all your worst symptoms including nasal congestion, which most pills don't. and all from a gentle mist you can barely feel. flonase sensimist.
3:55 am
it was pepper's story when we began. pepper officially now ronique who set out to find a birth certificate and discovered a past that was richer and more complex than even she dreamed possible. to find first the mother of her memory and then her long lost birth mother and to discover
3:56 am
that renee was her actual sister and now to learn that she had a brother. raymond leonard smith jr. is what she called him before he was snatched away abducted by the babysitter shirley. where was he now? geri gave us a copy of the birth certificate and he would be just about 40 now. and our chances of finding him seemed, frankly, slim. we called ray smiths all over the country. ray smith in colorado and ray smith in maryland, new jersey, kansas, but did he go by the name ray smith? and then a call back. it was the ray smith from colorado. he had the right name, the right age, and place of birth and grown up without knowing any blood relatives and all of this ray smith knew was his mother's name. according to the birth certificate, it was geri, and he
3:57 am
was starting to sound a lot like our ray. we asked if he would submit to a dna test. he agreed, and there was no doubt, we'd found him. we brought ray and his fiancee to a los angeles hotel and showed him the story of his sisters, and in a way, his story, too. >> i thought that this story, itself was sad. sounded like they had a rough life. and it was really similar to mine. >> and so it was. it began the same way, too, when shirley took him from geri except ray was turned over to annalee brown, and named him jimmy brown, the only name that he knew growing up. >> she had told me that she had adopted me, but i was also shipped around a lot from home to home, because she had a lot of health problems, from what i was told. >> he was neglected, he said, and often abused. bounced around for years.
3:58 am
until anna brown shipped him off to a colorado couple when he was 14. that is when he found his birth certificate and started to call himself ray smith, and began puzzling over the apparently unanswerable questions of his life. >> why did anne name me jim brown if my name was ray? how come i never knew about geri and things like that? then i wondered, you know, was i kidnapped? >> no answers from anna brown who died soon after that. and as for life in colorado, by the time he was 16 -- >> things were getting a little rough. maybe because of my past, i was not a real easy kid. so i was put into foster care. >> and then, he graduated from high school. he got a job, moved in with some friends and started his own rock band. this you tube video shows him singing lead.
3:59 am
and for all he has wondered about his past, he has come to believe that he would go to the grave without ever meeting a blood relative until now. >> wow. they are actually in the same building that i am in right now. that is amazing to me. >> and here they were. >> oh, my baby. oh. >> hello. >> it has been forever. >> it is great to see you. >> meeting family for the first time. >> and you guys kind of look like me. [ laughter ] >> after so many years. >> so this is my first time meeting my blood. >> us, too. >> it is great. it is so great. >> and this is how pepper's desperate search for a warm memory of a lost childhood ended. >> you look like our dad. >> far bigger than she imagined and far better. >> it is good to see you. >> it is good to see you, too. >> the family that was stolen.
4:00 am
>> it is amazing. it is the best gift ever. >> it is. >> they sat here for hours and shared their photos and got to know each other. and made plans. >> wonderful. >> like families do. >> that is all for this edition of "dateline extra." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. good morning. i'm dara brown in new york at msnbc world headquarters. it is 7:00 in the east, 4:00 out west. here's what is happening, mixed signals. new comments from president trump saying organizers are still planning for the summit with north korea. so is the meeting on or off? good advice? a former independent counsel says the president's lawyers could be right when it comes to an interview with robert mueller. >> you hear the criminal defense say, and i understand the perspective fully, he shouldn't go to sit down with bob mueller. but he is the

10 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on