In The Foundling, Part 1, Steve Morrow and his wife Rosie begin searching for her biological parents and uncover an astonishing secret about her past, one that launches them on the investigation of their lives.
In Part 2, the investigation continues.
After our emotional visit to the alley where baby Rosie was found, we drove home in silence. Rosie was bewildered and angry. By the time we got home, I had worked myself up into full investigator mode, with a healthy measure of protective husband mode mixed in.
These were, apparently, not the modes she needed just then.
“I’m not your damn client,” Rosie snapped. She was determined that we would do this thing together. And something about my all-business, “I’ve got this” attitude made her feel like she’d called my office and hired a stranger.
It took me a moment to see what she needed from me. Unlike most cases, which require emotional distance, detachment isn’t an option when it comes to my wife. Her past and our family’s future depended on how we proceeded and what we found.
We decided to contact the detective who was working Rosie’s case at the time, an officer named Bryan McDonald. He had retired from the police department and was serving on the Oxnard City Council. Mr. McDonald agreed to meet with Rosie at a Starbucks in Moorpark.
At the meeting, Mr. McDonald told Rosie that the police investigation in 1984 had turned up no leads. He added this bit of discouraging intel: After 30 years, the bag that she was found in had most likely been thrown away—so, no DNA test on the bag would be possible. He advised her that a media appeal for information might be the best way to start her search.
We decided to try his approach. But before going public, we needed to tell her family what we were planning to do.
Just as Rosie feared, her mother was upset when Rosie told her about the letter, but not for the reasons Rosie expected. Her mother’s feelings weren’t hurt by Rosie’s questions about the past. She was upset that Rosie had gone down to Oxnard and heard the story from a stranger. Rosie’s mother felt that she should have given her the news herself. But she gave Rosie her blessing to go ahead with the media appeal.
Taking to the Airwaves
We gave interviews to the Ventura County Star and KCAL-9. The reporters were extremely helpful and did their best to keep Rosie’s identity a secret. Rosie and I felt that our boys were too young to comprehend what had happened to their mother.
We set up a special email and telephone number to track callers but received no helpful leads. A reporter from the Ventura County Star suggested that Rosie try a DNA company called 23&me. He got her in touch with a geneticist named Cece Moore who would help us sift through the millions of strands of DNA out there to find answers. Cece also advised Rosie to list her information on Ancestry.com, which included a DNA database.
Slowly but surely, leads started coming in. Rosie got a DNA hit on a fourth-degree relative, but that connection led us no closer to Rosie’s parents. A few years went by, and we got a few more hits from distant relatives. But none of them knew anything that could propel our investigation forward.
Rosie’s patience, never an infinite resource, was ebbing. I came home several times to find her sitting on our bed with documents spread out in front of her, hoping to spot something she’d missed that would take our investigation down a different path. Once, I even rescued the binder of documents out of the trash can. I reassured her that patience and prayer would get us to the answers.
In October of 2014, Rosie received an email from Ancestry.com informing her that a second degree match had been found. This was Rosie’s closest match so far.
The relative, a man named Bill, agreed to meet with us at a TGIF restaurant. He scanned the documents and took note of where Rosie was found. He looked at her and considered the relatives that she could possibly resemble. He then delved into the family’s sordid history.
Some of Rosie’s possible relatives were involved in the local drug trade. If she belonged to a family involved in criminal gangs, we wondered if were better for her not to know them.
Bill also mentioned that he remembered a cousin named Michael who came to Oxnard around the same time that Rosie was born. The man had gotten a woman pregnant in Monterey and was laying low. Could that woman had come down to Oxnard, given birth, and then done this to her baby girl, after being rejected by Michael?
We asked Bill for Michael’s contact information, but he did not have it. Still, this was the best lead we’d had in a while.
They thought it unthinkable that someone in their family would do this to Rosie. To anyone. But there she stood, with the documents and DNA evidence in hand. The truth could not be denied.
We quickly located Michael and his three sisters—and we noted that he had a son the same age as Rosie. We didn’t believe that he was Rosie’s biological parent, but his sister Monica did bear a resemblance to Rosie. I called Monica.
Monica was not pleased to receive my call. After I explained who I was and why I was calling, she got even nastier. She told me that she was from Central California and would never do such a thing to a child. Then she hung up on me.
Later that evening, Monica sent Rosie a note via Facebook messenger. But when Rosie wrote back to share her story, Monica blocked her on Facebook. This seemed suspicious to us. Could Monica be hiding information about herself or a family member? Did she know something that frightened or embarrassed her?
We pored over the Facebook profiles of other siblings and found one, Celia, who appeared to be very religious. Celia was leaving church when Rosie called her. She listened to Rosie and agreed to take a DNA test.
A month later, we received the test results—she was Rosie’s cousin four times removed. Another hit, but even further from the target. Once again, Rosie was losing hope.
The Family Tree Grows
In November of 2015, we got a break: A third-degree match turned up on Ancestry.com. Rosie reviewed the information and found one last name that appeared on several of her distant matches: Sanchez. We tracked down a woman named Jane who had married into the Sanchez family. After hearing Rosie’s story, she convinced her husband to test. He was Rosie’s great uncle—which meant that one of his siblings was a grandparent of Rosie’s.
Mr. Sanchez agreed to convince his siblings to help us. A relative named Brenda, who lived near Oxnard, promised to contact her remaining siblings and get them to take a DNA test. One of Brenda’s sisters, Victoria, had died. We would have to ask one of her four daughters to test in her place.
Slowly, Rosie and I reached out to Rosie’s biological family, collecting allies. Some agreed to help immediately; others responded with suspicion—what did we want from them? They needed to meet us in person to know that our motives were not malicious.
We set up a breakfast meeting with the “greats” and one of the children of Victoria, the sibling who had died. As I surveyed these folks, I noted the resemblance that many of them shared with my wife. They showed curiosity and expressed sorrow for what had happened to Rosie. They thought it unthinkable that someone in their family would do this to her. To anyone.
But there she stood, with the documents and DNA evidence in hand. The truth could not be denied.
The DNA Doesn’t Lie
As I sat at the table, I noticed a woman named Cindy staring intently at my wife. Rosie later told me that she had noticed it, too. After breakfast, we received assurances from everyone that they would test. Cece helped Rosie hold them to their promises.
At the time, both 23&me and Ancestry.com were backed up significantly. But the results slowly started coming in.
First, we learned that Brenda was a great aunt of Rosie’s, as was a woman named Bobbi. By then, we were down to two specific families. A man named Phillip had refused to come to the breakfast or to test.
And then, Cindy’s results arrived. She was Rosie’s aunt. And that meant that one of Cindy’s three sisters was Rosie’s biological mother.
Cindy responded to this news with shock and denial that one of her sisters could do such a terrible thing. She needed time, and asked that we give her a few days to think things through.
After so long, time was not an easy thing for us to give. But we reminded ourselves how we felt when we first had learned the truth of Rosie’s first day of life. We needed to give Cindy time to get over the shock and heal. In the meantime, Rosie sent Cindy the DNA results. There was no denying the story they told.
We had been seeking answers for such a long time, and they were so very near. But the waiting wasn’t over just yet.
About the Author:
Steve Morrow began his career in private investigations in 2003. As a graduate of the Nick Harris Detective Academy, he learned a variety of investigative techniques including surveillance, skip tracing, asset searches, background investigations, obtaining statements and more. In 2011, he founded the Morrow Detective Agency in Simi Valley, CA. and has successfully conducted more than a thousand investigations.