ST. LOUIS – A woman who recently reunited with her 49-year-old daughter filed a petition Monday seeking court files and adoption records that might shed light on what exactly happened in 1965 at Homer G. Phillips Hospital in St. Louis, where the mother says she was told her newborn baby was dead.
The petition filed in St. Louis Circuit Court does not seek money, but simply seeks access to any records and files on behalf of Zella Jackson Price, 76, and her daughter, Melanie Diane Gilmore.
Attorney Albert Watkins said the suit is an effort to uncover any information "that would explain the genesis of Baby Diane."
FBI spokeswoman Rebecca Wu said Monday that the agency is aware of allegations that babies may have been taken at Homer G. Phillips Hospital, and encouraged anyone with information to call the local office. Wu refused to say whether the FBI has opened a human trafficking investigation.
Price gave birth to a daughter that she named Diane on Nov. 25, 1965, and says she was told a short time later by a nurse that the girl had died. There was no death certificate and she was not given an opportunity to see the deceased child.
In February, Price was contacted by Mehiska Jackson, Gilmore's granddaughter, who was trying to track down Gilmore's birth mother. Jackson had a name because Gilmore, as a child, had found a birth certificate showing the name of her birth mother, Jackson said.
DNA testing confirmed with near 100-percent likelihood that Price was Gilmore's mother. They drew worldwide attention when they reunited last month.
That attention has led nearly 20 women to come forward to Watkins, expressing concern that their infants who reportedly died at birth at the now-closed Homer G. Phillips Hospital, mostly from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s, were actually taken.
Many told strikingly similar stories: All were black and poor, most of them ages 15 to 20 when they gave birth. Watkins said they were not allowed to see their deceased children; many were told they had been cremated or their bodies donated to science. They did not receive death certificates. All were notified by nurses of the babies' deaths, though it's usually a doctor who delivers such news.
Watkins believes they were stolen and sold to adoptive parents. In addition to filing the court petition. Watkins has asked Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay to launch investigations.
Several women who have contacted Watkins gathered Monday in his office, including Brenda Stewart. She was 16 and unmarried when she gave birth to a seemingly healthy girl on June 24, 1964. A nurse took the child after birth and returned a short time later to tell Stewart that the baby had died, Stewart said, crying as she recalled the events.
"They told me I didn't need a baby," Stewart said. "I was too young to have a baby. They told me my parents didn't need another mouth to feed.
"I know my baby's not dead," she said.