West Virginia men claim hospital switched them at birth in 1942, forcing them to suffer 'lifetime of consequences'

Two West Virginia men are accusing a Roman Catholic diocese of making them suffer a “lifetime of consequences” after they were allegedly switched at birth nearly 80 years ago.

John William Carr III and Jackie Lee Spencer, both born Aug. 29, 1942, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Buckhannon, have filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, claiming staff members at the diocese-run facility sent them home with the wrong families.

The switch was discovered last year when DNA tests showed Carr and Spencer had no genetic matches with the families that raised them but did match the other’s family, the men say in their lawsuit, which was first reported on by The Dominion Post.

As a result, Carr, Spencer, and their families have suffered a “lifetime of consequences” from the switch and are seeking unspecified damages, the lawsuit adds.

The St. Joseph Hospital in Buckhannon where Spencer and Carr were born in 1942. (Google Earth)

The St. Joseph Hospital in Buckhannon where Spencer and Carr were born in 1942. (Google Earth)

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The diocese, meanwhile, does not comment on pending litigation, spokesman Tim Bishop said.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Monongalia County Circuit Court says Spencer spent more than 50 years searching for the man listed on his birth certificate as his father, as he had been told the man abandoned his mother prior to his birth.

But after finding relatives of the man, Spencer took a DNA test to see if he was related and discovered he was not. An additional DNA test also showed he wasn’t related to people he had grown up thinking of as his blood family.

It turned out, tests showed, he was really related to Carr’s family — and further digging found that Carr had been born the same day at St. Joseph.

Spencer and his wife then contacted Carr, who took a DNA test showing that he actually was related to the people Spencer had believed were his own relatives.

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Spencer, now in his twilight years, never got to know many of his real family members, he says in the lawsuit.

“Many of the people Jack should have known his entire life are gone,” the lawsuit reads. “He feels as though most of his family died all at once. He grieves for the loss of the life he was supposed to have, while reconciling those feeling with the love and gratitude he feels for the family he has known his whole life.”

Carr, who has blue eyes, said he looks different from the family that raised him and always felt out of place.

“Well, I never felt like I fit in here because my mother and dad had brown hair and brown eyes, and so do my brother and sister,” Carr was quoted as saying in the lawsuit.

His attorney, Charles Crooks, told The Daily Mail that Carr’s father also had “frequently commented that John didn’t look like his son, and he wasn’t very kind about it.”

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Carr and Spencer met face-to-face last year on their shared birthday for the first time, he added.

“They’re glad to know each other and they are glad to know the truth,” Crooks told the Daily Mail.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.