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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  December 30, 2018 3:00am-4:01am PST

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the happiest because emily's not there. she's not there for them and for me to share in it. it's hard. >> that's all for this edition of dateline. i'm craig melvin. thanks for watching. i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. and this is dateline. >> her name is pepper. >> i lived a secret life. >> she was kidnapped at age 4. >> we got in the car and we never looked back. >> she spent decades trying to find her way home again and she finally made it, or so she thought. >> i said i think i'm rhonda christie or do you know rhonda patricia christie, and there was
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a long pause. >> pepper's story had ups and downs. >> when i looked at the e-mail i just couldn't believe it. >> but after so many tears, so many years and so many turns in her story. >> i was like whoa. >> there are still more stunning twists to be revealed. >> it's amazing. it's the best gift ever. >> welcome to dateline. a 4-year-old girl was abducted and raised by her kidnapper. her story has an extraordinary ending but as it turns out that ending was just the beginning. here is keith morris. >> our story begins with this mother of a teenage daughter.
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a woman who had spent most of her life trying to figure out who she was. what was her name? where did she come from? we'll tell you about her long search, her discovery to find what felt like tugt. >> but as you'll soon see real truth can be elusive. it can hide. let's begin at the beginning. but at the beginning all she had was a memory. >> a twin canopy bed with pink ruffles around it, kind of waved over the top of it. >> it was dream like really, and for years it was all that felt real in her upside down life. and it was all pink and white and everything matched. >> the closet full of dresses, the dolls, the teddy bears. >> and actually there was a little old-fashioned where you
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put the baby in the wagon. >> and the reason for those tormenting memories. >> it's a lot of hurt and sadness. sadness for the little girl that didn't have a life. >> for most of her life the part after that little girl's bedroom, she has been pepper and the baffling terrifying story of what happened to her, kidnapped, held captive for years is the reason she gripped that life preserver of a memory. shocking where that memory will lead by the end of this hour. she was she is certain of this an only child and spoiled most likely, showered with attention of toys and dresses whose parents she cannot pull into faces. >> it looks like a very happy childhood, like love was there. >> those are her two parents, but her mother's name lost now. though there was a nickname,
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bobby, and in those early years she was always, always there. her father on the other hand was absent mostly. long stretches away punctuated by glorious reunions where she'd be bundled up like a china doll and bustled to the harbor where she would go see him. >> it was an exciting moment and she would get us all dressed up and it was the anticipation of going to the shipyard and having a lot of attention i think as a child. >> the memories of how he survived it all, of course, all the trouble. >> holding my mom's hand, having fun with my mom. being in a moment of joy. i don't have bad memories. >> oh, yes, those, the bad memories like the day everything good went away. it was 1973 though she and her happy little childhood had no idea what it was. she knows she was not yet 5, it was awesome and someone came to
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the door with a plan. >> i remember a woman coming over and knocking on the door. >> her name was shirley, she was a friend of her mother's she said, and said she brought over her little girl, and renee was 6. this is rene now and that room is stuck in her memory, too. >> the room was gorgeous, a nice size room for a little kid. she had a canopy bed, tons of dresses, toys galore. >> and you had none of this. >> no. and i was like wow, this is nice. >> an alien world to rene, and while the little girl's played in the bedroom shirley was with bobby in the living room and called rene. >> i guess when it was time to leave i didn't want to go. i said can we stay longer. >> no, but your little friend is coming with us. >> so she came and that's how everything started.
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>> so it did. it was to be an overnight, the girls were told, a little fun. they'd stay with shirley in her los angeles hotel room, return the next morning, that was the plan, said shirley. but shirley lied. >> we got in the car and we never went back. and my life completely changed from that point on completely. >> this woman took you away. >> yes. >> and you'd never see home again. >> no, never back again. >> do you remember that feeling? >> yes. i wanted to go home. >> she had been kidnapped. must have been. there was no little girl's overnight in shirley's hotel room. they stopped there only to pack some belongings, hit the road and a blissful childhood ended. the memory of a beautiful bedroom, all she had to confront the nightmare just beginning. coming up -- on the road with her kidnapper. >> i knew that everything that was happening to us was
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completely wrong. i was very, very on edge. >> when dateline continues. ry oe >> when dateline continues i knew about the tremors. but when i started seeing things, i didn't know what was happening... so i kept it in. he started believing things that weren't true. i knew something was wrong... but i didn't say a word. during the course of their disease around 50% of people with parkinson's may experience hallucinations or delusions. but now, doctors are prescribing nuplazid. the only fda approved medicine... proven to significantly reduce hallucinations and delusions related to parkinson's. don't take nuplazid if you are allergic to its ingredients.
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the story you'll hear now lives in the vivid so real you could touch them memories of two frightened girls. it began in a down market motel whose l.a. neighborhood was most decides decidedly not child friendly.
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it was to be a one night sleepover and instead a woman named shirley simply didn't take her home again. where did they go? the little girl had no idea, but she did know from now on she had a new name. they called her pepper. pepper smith. she was not yet 5 years old. >> we lived in cars and motels and going from state to state staying at salvation armies to get a meal here and there. you know, just -- >> what's it like to live in a car? >> it's horrible. it's embarrassing. >> she was confused, of course, and terribly frightened at first. she begged, take me home. shirley ignored her. she imagined running away. >> i had nowhere to go and i was too scared. >> then as the weeks and months and then years went by, as her powers of reasoning grew, the question grew, too.
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did her mother bobbie actually give her away? shirley told pepper that rene was her sister. the two girls listened wide-eyed as shurlly explained to strangers that she was their grandmother, that her parents had been killed in an accident. >> i knew everything happening to us was wrong. >> why had she been taken? she didn't know. not for money certainly and without pepper's birth certificate, shurlly couldn't use her to score public assistance, though she did use renee that way. >> i never wanted to do anything wrong. i felt like if i did something wrong over and over she wouldn't love me and she would give me away. >> wouldn't love me? shirley told her said rene she was born to a prostitute drug
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addict and shirley saved rene, raised her as a granddaughter but kept her in line by threatening to abandon her. >> did she ever threaten to do that? >> yeah. many times we would do something wrong and she would say you stop doing that or i'm going to send you off to jeri's house. >> hunger constant. medical care nonexistent. when money ran out, as it often did, shirley drove to the nearest truck stop. the girls would bed down in the car and watch shirley sneak off to do, well, they didn't know. and alone and frightened they held onto each other and watched the shadows of strange men pass by their car until the night when terrified and unable to sleep rene followed shirley. >> she's taking a long time and
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i'm getting scared because i'm thinking she left or she died or something. so i go into where they work on the cars and she's like on the side over here. and he's on top of her. and i didn't know what was going on, i got scare asked she seen me and she yelled at me to get out of here, go. >> at least then they had a bit of money, but always pepper was afraid. afraid to ask for help. afraid to ask why she'd been taken, afraid of shirley's threats. >> she would scare us to believe that we were in a better place. she was doing something good for us. >> did you ever understand why she wouldn't take you back home? >> her personality was very up and down, like very angry, and so if i asked questions she would say stuff like if you want to find your mom, she's on the
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streets shooting heroin and a prostitute. >> firaids were frequent, neglect, part of life. verbal and physical abuse a regular occurrence. >> she would whip us with the belt, slap us, verbally cuss at us, verbally abuse us. >> and threaten to send you away. >> right. >> i just took the belt because it just -- if you take it, this is -- it's hard to explain but, if you just take it, she gets out of the rage faster, so to speak. >> they went to school when they could, made very few friends and lost the ones they did make, struggled to be ordinary kids and then normal teenagers. >> all i wanted to be was loved. that's it. and i never got any kind of love that i wanted. >> instead they were trapped. truck stop nomads in the care of a woman it seemed clear had kidnapped at least one if not both of them. and they drifted across any
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number of state lines for years. and then some time in the early '80s they settled down here. shirley pulled up to this motel in los angeles county and took a job as the motel's cleaning woman in exchange for a free room. and at least it gave them some measure of stability, and they signed up at a local school. junior high for pepper, high school for rene, much to shirley's disapproval. >> shirley would tell us girls don't go to school, they get married, why do you want to go to school? i didn't like being late to school. i didn't like being absent all the time. >> so they got themselves up every morning and went to school and kept going. and then pepper was 12. eight of those years with shirley when she saw her chance to escape and seized it. she made herself useful as a baby-sitter for the couple next door in room 109. and when the family moved out of
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the motel, pepper went with them. but it didn't last long. pepper's new household was as troubled and messy as her own life was. she swallowed her pride and moved back to 110 colennial hotel. even though by then, says pepper, shirley didn't seem to care much what she did. >> i remember when i was trying to so-called run away, plot my escape, before it went into action, i was in my mind i'm going to show her, she'll care. like, i remember thinking that. but she didn't care. she didn't come to get me. >> still having tasted freedom once pepper was determined to get away from her kidnapper for good. the second time she took a chance, moved out with a family and a second time had to return. and finally by the time she turned 16, pepper left for good. but that meant she left rene
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behind for good. rene who so needed pepper and was alone now with shirley. >> she was my best friend. growing up, that was my best friend. we'd fight like sisters. we did everything together. >> rene was feeling abandoned. >> i was telling her don't go, you know, stay here. i need you, you're my sister. so she went and did her thing and i was upset and i was sad. >> in 1986 and on her own now, pepper had all but given up hope she'd ever find her real parents but now she began to encounter her immediate problem. the inevitable trouble that comes with having no real name, no birth certificate, no i.d. though she was enrolled in school she had no way to prove this was her legal name, and without some cooperation from shirley her search for documents seemed hopeless. and then -- how did you find out she was sick? >> she turned completely yellow and they diagnosed her with
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pancreatic cancer and she literally died quickly after that. >> with surely on her deathbed, pepper tried to act like the dutiful daughter, but there was another terribly important reason to see her then, maybe the most important. one last opportunity to find out who she was. as she was dying, did you try to find, you know, maybe she'd make a deathbed confession and say, yes, i did take you and here are what your parents' names are and how to find them. did any of that happen? did you ask? >> oh, yeah. >> and shirley had a response for the girl she renamed pepper. the question was what could she do with that answer? coming up -- if j.c. dugger could be found after 18 years certainly there could be hope for pepper. >> it triggered a lot of my personal memories, how come i
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didn't get found. >> but would she be missing much longer? when dateline continues. g much longer when dateline continues. that's why we designed capital one cafes. you can get savings and checking accounts with no fees or minimums. and one of america's best savings rates. to top it off, you can open one from anywhere in 5 minutes. this isn't a typical bank. this is banking reimagined. what's in your wallet? has been excellent. they really appreciate the military family and it really shows. with all that usaa offers why go with anybody else? we know their rates are good, we know that they're always going to take care of us. it was an instant savings and i should have changed a long time ago. it was funny because when we would call another insurance company, hey would say "oh we can't beat usaa" we're the webber family. we're the tenney's we're the hayles, and we're usaa members for life. ♪ get your usaa auto insurance quote today.
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the girl they called pepper smith sat at the deathbed of the woman who'd stolen her with questions burning in her brain. she had to know who was she, where did she come from, who were her parents, what was her
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true identity, and at the very least, where could she find the documents that could give her a real life? tee took a roundabout route. she asked the question indirectly. >> i took drivers ed just like any 16-year-old. i want to be free and work and be from from all this. i have a plan. and, you know, i asked her for, i need nigh birth certificate, i need this, and she told me. they changed the laws. you can't get your driver's license until you're 18 years old. yeah. i i'm supposed to believe this as i sit in the classroom where i've got friends who are getting permits. so she took the lies with her. she was not going to tell. >> what about the birth certificate? >> never gave me a concrete answer, nothing. the lies stayed with her. >> shirley new the answers of course, knew the whole bizarre story. but she looked pepper in the eye through her obvious pain and told her nothing. she left the lies behind and
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took the truth to her grave on july 29, 1986 at the age of 63. she was buried here, this cemetery in an unmarked grave. rene now 19 got on with life, moved in with her boyfriend. soon pepper showed up at their apartment homeless and nowhere else to turn to. and everywhere pepper went from then on shirley's poison gift followed because of that woman and what she did, pepper was officially at least a nonperson. so it took a little while for her determination to come back. she was in her mid-20s, a single mother by then. if only she could find her birth certificate, that could lead her to her parents. anyway she needed documents to live, she needed a passport. so she contacted state offices, their departments of vital record with perhaps predictable
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results. tell me what it feels like to go to an official to ask for something you really, really need and you kind of know how it's going to go? >> i get emotional usually. i crucially cry. it just brings me to a sad place. >> so you'd be sitting across the desk from somebody crying. >> oh, absolutely. >> and they wouldn't do anything for you or say i can't do anything for you, probably. >> you need this document. this is what you have to provide. i have no way to get this document because i don't my parents' name, i don't my real name. pepper. >> and once again pepper felt perhaps understandably like giving up. by then she was living with her daughter in south lake, tahoe, working as a waitress and what do you know, found. >> the community was buzzing with joy and i was happy for
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j.c. lee, but it triggered a lot of my personal memories, how come i didn't get found, and i felt still missing. >> so once again charged up with determination she launched a fresh attempt. turns out there's such a thing as adult adoption. find someone to adopt her and even if she couldn't find her parents at least she could get an official identity. her friend offered to adopt her. so pepper applied and waited. and something quite amazing happened. someone in that great california bure bu bureaucracy did some research, hauled out records not readily available online. all pepper could offer were the names and the date of her birth. and somehow buried among all those files in all their hundreds of millions, a match. and there it was, came in the mail after all these years, a
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copy of her actual birth certificate. the key to unlock her past, though she had no idea then looking at that birth certificate that the appropriate question should have been this -- was this her real past? coming up -- a journey ending? >> this is it. i was like, whoa. >> or was it just beginning? when dateline continues. t begin? when dateline continues. led moderate-to-severe eczema, or atopic dermatitis, you never know how your skin will look. and it can feel like no matter what you do, you're always itching. but even though you see and feel eczema on your skin, an overly sensitive immune system deep within your skin could be the cause. so help heal your skin from within. with dupixent. dupixent is not a steroid, and it continuously treats your eczema even when you can't see it. at 16 weeks, more than 1 in 3 patients saw clear or almost clear skin, and patients saw a significant reduction in itch.
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here with your top stories. we're now in day nine of the government shutdown with no action expected until a new congress convenes on thursday. president trump fired off tweets at democrats saying he's waiting for them to come over to the white house and make a deal while still demanding funding for his border wall. the president also for the first time acknowledged the deaths of two children in border security in a tweet blaming democrats for those deaths.
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welcome back to dateline. i'm craig melvin. the woman known as pepper finally has the paper she's waited for most of her life to find, her birth certificate. but where would that little piece of paper lead? here again is keith morrison. >> 37 years she'd been searching for her parents, her life, her name. and now just as she'd given up ever finding the answer, here it was. a copy of her birth certificate with her real name in black and white. rhonda patricia christie, and there were the names of her parents, too. robert and barbara christie. >> and there it was. it was like, whoa, they are my parents. >> with their names and social security numbers rhonda and her friends tracked down a phone
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number in ohio. she dialled the number. a man answered. it was june 5, 2010. >> i said are you robert christie, and he said yes, and i said are you married to a barbara blackwelder or were you married, i didn't know. and he said, yes, and i said i think i'm randa christie or do you know rhonda patricia christie, and there was a long pause. >> this is who she was talking to. his name is bob christie. >> i almost dropped the phone. she knew idea hesitated and she said this is your daughter rhonda. and it was something that clicked in my mind that i the voice rang a bell. >> and he called to my mom, barbara, to pick up the phone. so she's on the phone and the first thing out of her mouth was shirley stole you. >> pepper was shaking inside and
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out. >> i went through the most emotions i think i've ever had in my entire life ever. >> the memories were true or so it certainly seemed. she got on a plane for ohio. they were all of course 37 years older and in a way strangers now. but here they were, all the images she had clung to in fantasy, dreamed about for those 37 long years. >> there you are in your bath. happy. >> you were a chubby little baby. >> i'm happy. >> and look at you, just learning to walk and smiling the whole way. you had a good life, honey. >> i know. >> so it was happy and sad, comfortable but also deeply strange because sitting on this couch pepper heard some stunning revelations. such as these were not her birth parents. she had been adopted and the arrangement was mysterious.
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and now it was barbara's turn to tell a story. shirley had been her friend, she said, had told her about a woman working in the sex trade named jeri smith who didn't want her babies and one day she showed up at the house. barbara could see it was a little iffy but she wanted that baby so badly. and so she said she ignored the red flags. >> nope, didn't care. didn't really care. >> she was going to see to it, she said, that rhonda was loved and cared for by the best parent she could ever possibly have. bob and barbara legally adopted their little princess four years later in the fall of 1973. and it was shortly after that, said barbara, when shirley and rene showed up at her door. >> and the kids played together and we visited together, and she
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asked if rhonda could come spend the night with rene and took me a while to get an answer to that. i really had to think about that hard. i'm one of these tenderhearted people and i said, well, i want her to know her sister. >> sister? oh, yes, barbara told rhonda she and rene were half sisters, daughters of the same mother, the woman who worked the streets. barbara said by then she didn't trust shirley with rhonda, but -- >> i want rhonda to know her sister. i wanted her to have family and stuff. and i asked bob, and he said no, she couldn't at first. and then he relented, let her go. and next morning we went to get her and they were gone. >> and they didn't come back. bob and barbara called the police right away, of course. but here's what they said they
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were told. that the police could do no nothing for them since they'd allowed rhonda to leave with surel shirley. they were on their own. so they started their own search. discovered shirley had taken them to a relatives house, but when they got there it was too late. all that remained sitting on the porch were the little red shoes rhonda wore the day she was kidnapped. it was hopeless. they returned to their childhood home, nothing left but the photographs of the little girl that stopped growing up then at 4. and then out of blue that phone call. and here she was. >> it was definitely a gift. >> and we got a granddaughter. >> just in time it turns out. barbara had terminal cancer. she would die a year later.
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but back then they celebrated, an amazing reunion. so of course dateline was happy to broadcast it all around the country on march 25, 2011, no idea that something quite unbelievable would happen. because one of the people who tuned in that night was a woman named jeri. and oh, what a story she had to tell. it was a story two sisters had waited a very long time to hear. coming up -- >> 99.99% probability. >> that's it. >> yep. that means it's confirmed. >> when dateline continues. t's . >> when dateline continues
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plus twelve hundred and fifty dollars ford credit bonus cash on ford expedition when we first told you the story about pepper smith and her lifelong journey to find her family, her joidentity, it was friday night in march 2011, and the following monday morning -- >> my office received a call, and then i received an e-mail. >> attorney gloria allred found herself looking at an remarkable message. allred had been helping the two sisters deal with their new identity issues, and there it was, the ping of a message on her black berry. >> when i looked at the e-mail, i just couldn't even believe it. i looked at it about three times. am i really seeing this? >> it was a woman claiming to be the biological mother of both
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pepper and rene, claiming to be the woman who, according to shirley and barbara, was a child abandoning drug addled prostitute probably dead. could this woman really be their mother? hardly a claim allred could take on simple faith. >> i asked here to come in to see me the very next day, which she was very anxious and happy to do. i asked her to bring whatever evidence she had. >> and in that meeting the woman presented her evidence. >> she brought some photos that she had of pepper and rene when they were very little. >> she told allred she had been a waitress when the girls were little, brought a photo of that, too, and a picture of surely and also the photo of a man she said was the girls' father, long since dead. she said her name was jeri. >> i asked her immediately, jeri, would you be willing to do a dna test.
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she said i'll take the dna test, but these are my children. i know it. >> allred put the dna test on a fast track and waited. and within a week called pepper and rene to her office to hear the results in person the results of the test. >> 99.99% probability. that's it. it means it's confirmed. >> how soon could they meet, jeri, is what the sisters wanted to know. we arranged for a reunion the next day. jeri arrived first and told us how she saw her long lost girls on our program. >> i was hysterical because i knew that's who she was. and then when i saw the girls i knew they were mine. >> after all the years of looking -- >> and there they are. >> what did they feel like?
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>> it felt great. i was hoping i could find my children before i died because i'm getting old and that was just like a miracle. >> jeri's story, the shirley who took the girls had been her friend turned roommate turned baby-sitter. >> she said i'll baby-sit for you, i'll take care of them while you work, and i said that's great because i really thought i was blessed. >> first it was rene she looked after, then rene and pepper and then two years later little leonard smith, jr. wait, brother? it wasn't just the two girls. there was a younger brother the girls never knew they had. the father wasn't around very much, jeri supported them all with what she could make as a waitress and shirley made a change, a positive one at least financially. >> she got this job supposedly at the motel managing, which was
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furthermer i worked so i arranged with her to watch the kids while i worked. >> it was a god send really since jeri had to be hospitalized for weeks after raymond was born and get back to work and find a new home to take the kids to. >> i'd come out there on my day off to stay with the kids and spend some time with them. so then i called her and told her i was coming to get the kids and the next day i went out there, and gone. >> not a sign of them. no kids, no shirley. frantic then she went to the police. what did you tell them? your children had been kidnapped? >> yep, and they took the report and that's the last i heard. >> did you go back and talk to them again? >> i went back two or three times and told me the same thing, they hadn't found anything. >> see looked on her own and found year after year, nothing. had no idea, she said, that
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surely had left pepper with barbara, that barbara persuaded a court that pepper had essentially been abandoned and thus could be adopted or that surely stole her back again. and then there they were telling their story on dateline, telling how surely and barbara had described her. >> yes, i heard what they said about me. i was not a streetwalker. i was a waitress all my life. >> they also said you didn't really want your children. you were happy to abandon them. >> i never abandoned my children, never, ever and would never, ever do that. >> and she wasn't a drug addict either, she says. she's not had a smooth or easy life and for much of it she has missed her children and blamed herself for what happened. trusting surely. >> yes. >> and for not having those kids under your wing all the time.
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>> that's right. >> tell me about that. >> to me i feel it was my fault because i put them in the hands of this monster. >> we're in a hotel room in los angeles, jeri is eager, anxious, terrified, visibly shaking. and then they come around the corner. their first meeting of 37 years. >> wow. it's been a lifetime we've missed. >> i feel i'm dreaming still. i can't really get it yet. >> i can't either. >> can i just stare at you for a minute? >> you can do anything, honey. i'm sad because i was there with you. >> you're my mom. >> yes. you're my babies.
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you're my babies. it's been 37 years. >> and just about here as they cling and cry, something rather magical happens. the center of gravity shifts. >> what happened? what happened? >> it's rene who wants the answers now. >> what happened? >> you will know. you will know, i promise you. y >> she was adopted but what happened to me? >> i thought i would never find you ever. >> i thought i'd never find you either. i searched and i searched and i searched. i had no money to go -- and when i turned on the tv and saw you girls. >> i thought you didn't care about me. >> no, i loved you. both of you.
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i could never not love you, i had to. >> i was so mad at you. i didn't know. i thought you gave me away. >> no. >> they spent hours together here talking about their pasts, their likes and dislikes, their amazing similarity. we gave to get to know each other and sat down again with pepper and renee. >> so there it is. you have your mother. but what now? will you have a relationship with her? >> we're going to move her in with me. >> move into your house? >> yes. once she gets all her affairs in order. >> why? >> because i want her. my husband wants her, too. i want to have a relationship with my mom. like i was telling you earlier, i want to go shopping, i want to have lunch. i want to buy stuff. i want to have christmas,
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thanksgivinge her there with me. >> and pepper? >> for one thing, pepper has adopted her real birth name, the one before it was lost in the abduction and adoption. it's smith. >> i feel everything -- everything the way it's played out, finding my mom. my biological father, seeing a picture of him. all these exciting things going on. i think it's not over yet. i don't feel the journey is quite over yet. it's just starting. this part of it is just starting. >> so it is. because, of course, one of them is still missing. >> coming up -- >> our brother ray manned is still missing. >> we know he's out there somewhere. >> when "dateline" continues. >> when "dateline" continues mber and arms of steel ♪ ♪ he eats a bowl of hammers at every meal ♪ ♪ he holds your house in the palm of his hand ♪
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♪ he's your home and auto man ♪ big jim, he's got you covered ♪ ♪ great big jim, there ain't no other ♪ -so, this is covered, right? -yes, ma'am. take care of it for you right now. giddyup! hi! this is jamie. we need some help. no matter how much you clean, does your house still smell stuffy? that's because your home is filled with soft surfaces that trap odors and release them back into the room. so, try febreze fabric refresher. febreze finds odors trapped in fabrics and cleans them away as it dries. use febreze every time you tidy up to keep your whole house smelling fresh air clean. fabric refresher even works for clothes you want
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it was pepper's story when we began. pepper, now officially ronique set out to find a birth certificate and find a past richer than she dreamed possible. to find first the mother of her memory and then her long lost birth mother, to discover that renee was her actual sister and now to learn she had a brother. raymond leonard smith jr. is
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what he was called before he, too, was snatched away, abducted by the baby-sitter. shirley. where was he now? >> we got a cop of his birth certificate. he'd be about 40 now. the chances of finding were frankly, slim. we called 40-year-old ray smiths all over the country. there was ray smith in colorado, in maryland, in new jersey, in kansas. did he go by the name ray smith? but then a call back. it was the ray smith from colorado. he had the right name, the right age, place of birth. had grown up without knowing any blood relatives. all he knew was his mother's name. according to his birth certificate was jerry. he was starting to sound a lot like our ray. we asked him to submit to a dna
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test. he agreed. there was no doubt, we had found him. we brought ray and his fiancee to a los angeles hotel and showed him the story of his sisters. in a way his story too. >> i thought that the story itself was sad. sounded like they had a rough life. it was really similar to mine. so it was. >> it began the same way, too, when shirley took him from jerry. except ray was turned over to a woman named anna lee brown who named minimum jimmy brown. the only name he knew growing up. >> she had told me that she had adopted me, that i was also shipped around a lot from home to home. because she had a lot of help from what i was told. >> he was neglected he said and often abused. bounced around for years. until anna brown shipped him off to a colorado couple when he was
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14. that's when he found his birth certificate. started calling himself ray smith and began puzzling after the unanswerable questions of his life. why did ann name me jim brown if my name was really ray? how commie never knew about jerry? things like that, i wondered. was i kidnapped? >> no answers from anna brown who died soon after that. as for life in colorado, by the time he was 16 -- >> things were getting a little rough, maybe because of my past i wasn't an easy kid. so i was put into foster care. >> and then he graduated from high school. he got a job, moved in with some friends and started his own rock band. this youtube video shows him singing lead. and for all he's wondered about his past, he had come to believe
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he'd go to his grave without ever meeting a blood relative. until now. >> wow. they're actually in the same building i'm in right now. that's amazing to me. >> and here they were. >> oh, my baby. i'm so glad -- >> great to see you. >> meeting family for the first time. >> you guys kind of look like me. >> after so many years. >> this is my first time meeting my blood. >> it's great. >> this is how pepper's desperate search for a warm memory of a lost childhood ended. >> you look like our dad. >> far bigger than she imagined. far better. >> good to see you, too. >> the family that was stolen -- >> it's amazing. the best gift ever.
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>> they sat here for hours, shared their photos, got to know each other. and made plans. like families do. >> that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm craig melvin. thank you for watching. good morning. i'm mill isa ray berger. here's what's happening. outrage after president trump escalates the border fight and puts new blame on democrats. >> you've got a president who very much feels like his best strategy is to dig in. >> this is his issue, his shutdown. the issue is the wall. >> they're trying to make nancy pelosi the demon in all of this. >> he has no plan. he does not understand what the budget is. >> we're entering day nine of the shutdown. who will b f


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