The U.S. Attorney for Eastern Missouri said Friday that hospital records disprove a woman’s claim she gave birth at a St. Louis hospital where she said she was wrongly told her baby had died.
Zella Jackson Price gave birth 50 years ago to a 2-pound, 4-ounce baby at another hospital, where the baby stayed for more than four months after the mother was discharged, U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said.
Price has said she was told while at Homer Phillips Hospital that her baby died. The allegation led hundreds of other black women who were told in the 1950s and ’60s that their children had died at the now-closed facility to wonder if their babies were still alive.
St. Louis attorney Albert Watkins, who represents Price and had suggested that a baby-stealing ring might have been at work, said Friday that he disagreed with the prosecutor’s findings, but he said he respects the conclusion.
He said he believes the confusion resulted because the baby was moved from Phillips to the other hospital.
The hard-to-find hospital records throw doubt on Price’s claim. They say she was admitted to City Hospital No. 1, not Phillips.
The records show Price gave birth to Diane Jackson — who grew up as Melanie Diane Gilmore — on November 25, 1965, five days after Price was admitted. She was discharged on November 29, but the baby was hospitalized until April 4, 1966.
When authorities were unable to find the mother, the baby was put into foster care. She was not stolen but was abandoned, records indicated.
“We can now say with complete confidence that there is absolutely no truth to that allegation,” Callahan said.
Callahan said they investigated only the Jackson case because it was the lone one where a woman said she was told the baby died only to find out later the child was alive.
Federal investigators spoke to a doctor who had worked at Phillips who was “more than skeptical about these allegations,” Callahan said.
But Watkins said the documents raise more questions and provide clues for his ongoing investigation.
In May, Price told CNN affiliate KTVI that she went to Phillips, where the majority of patients were black. City Hospital No. 1 was a mostly white facility.
“I’ve never been to City Hospital in my life. I cannot tell you where it was,” she told the station.
Price, now a noted gospel singer, recently learned her baby had been placed in foster care and eventually adopted. She was able to meet Gilmore recently in a reunion recorded by CNN affiliate KPLR.
“It was warm,” Price told KPLR about their first hug. “I didn’t want to let her go, you know. She is so precious.”
Gilmore’s children knew she wanted to meet her biological mother, so they used a name from Gilmore’s adoptive parents to start an online search. It eventually led them to Price, and DNA testing then confirmed Price and Gilmore, who lives in Oregon, are mother and daughter.
The children surprised Gilmore with news of the DNA match. Seeing her mother for the first time via online video link, Gilmore — who lost her hearing at age 3 because of illness — immediately signed the words “I love you.”
“(God) has given me everything the devil has taken from me,” Price told KPLR. “I’m getting it back. I’m getting my baby back.”