ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - Lawyers Al Watkins and Donna Clark Frayne work at different law firms. Both strongly believe young mothers at the old Homer G. Phillips Hospital were told their babies died just after birth, but the infants were alive and stolen and sold or given to strangers. Al Watkins said, “I’m as close to 100% sure as I can be without saying 100%.” Donna Clark Frayne added, “I feel 99.9 percent sure this was going on.”
Watkins represents gospel singer Zella Jackson Price who was reunited last month with her daughter Diane Gilmore 50 years after medical staff at the hospital told her the baby died. Watkins said a DNA test confirms they are mother and daughter.
Watkins has received hundreds of phone calls from other woman claiming the same thing happened to them. He said, “We’re not dealing with young shysters we’re not dealing with scam artists we’re dealing with salt of the earth older African-Americans, adults, women who know what’s happened to them.”
One of Frayne’s clients is 81-year-old Darlene Curry. She was 17 when she delivered, she told Frayne the doctor put gauze strips over her eyes so she couldn’t watch the delivery and then was told her baby was dead, even though in pre-natal visits the fetus was repeatedly described as healthy. Frayne said, “They’re playing God absolutely…I can’t imagine that someone would do this to another person I cannot imagine it.”
Frayne said she’s become so passionate about the case because she is not only a mother but also a grandmother. She posted a message on the alumni Facebook page for Homer G. Phillips pleading for information in the case. She said, I know that someone knows someone what went on in the labor and delivery division and I just want to know if they have the guts to come forward and do the right thing after all these years.”
Watkins said he has cleared at least two cases, death certificate were found confirming the babies did really die.
Acting City Health Director Melba Moore said, “We’re going to do everything can we do to get them the information we seek.”
Old health records from the hospital were recovered Friday by officials. They could hold the keys to answering many women’s questions. But, Moore wants everyone to know files may be missing. When the hospital closed it was not done in an orderly fashion. Moore said: 40 years ago I’ve been told when people left the facility, and I mean employees, they left their work stations as if they were returning the next day so they’re might be records that were not put back in place and filed the way they should have been. “
So far Al Watkins said only four people have retained his services. He said he hasn’t signed up hundreds of women because he wants to make sure they’re credible and that they don’t get hurt. Watkins said, “The last thing we want to do is put these elegant women, who have already suffered, in a position of false hope and do anything other than to be as square with them as possible so we can get answers to them.
Both lawyers are determined to get to the bottom of this. Watkins said, “These are very credible issues that need to be addressed.”
Frayne called what happened to the women, "A sin, a sin of the worst kind."