baby

As Paula and Carlton fought for custody, DNA showed their baby girl belonged to neither of them.

The day after the birth of his baby girl Callie, Carlton Conley noticed something strange. 

He told his partner Paula Johnson that Callie’s face “wasn’t as fat” as it had been the previous day. It was true. 

Callie had weighed 4.2kg when she was born on June 29, 1995. When she was weighed two days after the birth, she was just 3.5kg.

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Paula was concerned that her daughter seemed to have lost her appetite and asked the nurses at the University of Virginia Medical Centre in Charlottesville why her little girl wasn’t sucking anymore. 

She was told that babies sometimes “forget how”.

Callie was Paula’s fourth child, and her first with Carlton. 

Carlton, a construction worker who enjoyed hunting deer and squirrel, loved Callie, dressing her in tiny camouflage pyjamas and buying her a rifle to give her when she was older. 

But the couple’s relationship was stormy, and Carlton moved out when Callie was one. 

According to an article in People, Paula claimed in court documents that Carlton “ran into the back of my car with his truck… He then got a gun and shoved me and said he would shoot me”. Carlton spent four days in jail. 

When Paula took Carlton to court over child support payments, the judge ordered a DNA test to prove he was Callie’s father. The results of the test showed he wasn’t. Paula told the judge that was “crazy”, because she hadn’t been with anyone else. 

“He said, ‘Yes, ma’am, but that’s not everything. You’re also excluded from being Callie’s mother’,” she told People

Paula and her non-biological daughter, Callie. Image: Facebook. Rebecca Chittum was born at the same hospital as Callie on June 30, 1995. 

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Like Callie, she had blue eyes, but she was nearly a kilogram lighter at birth. 

She was the first child for her parents, carpenter Kevin Chittum and high school cheerleader Whitney Rogers. 

Whitney was only 16 when Rebecca was born.

Whitney and Paula had bumped into each other at the hospital when they were both walking the halls in labour. Paula later remembered Whitney as being “warm and enthusiastic”. 

Kevin and Whitney took their baby Rebecca home, and she quickly grew into a strong, athletic child. Her parents, who had another daughter, Lindsey, two years later, doted on her.

Just four days after Rebecca’s third birthday, her parents decided to drive to a country fair. 

The car’s backseat was filled with kids: Kevin’s niece, his younger sister and two of her friends. But there was no room for Rebecca or Lindsey’s car seats, so the two little girls stayed behind with their grandparents. 

The roads were wet, and Kevin’s car hydroplaned, crossing to the wrong side and hitting a fuel truck coming in the other direction. Everyone in the car died, as well as the truck driver.

A funeral was held, with six hearses and 42 pallbearers. A family friend told a local reporter that it was “very hard” for Whitney’s mother. 

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"At least every time she looks into those babies' eyes, she'll see her daughter," she said. 

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A week later, Whitney’s mother got a call from the hospital where Rebecca had been born. 

A doctor gave her the news that Rebecca might not be biologically related to them. Some family members felt disbelief at first, but once they saw the photos of Callie, they couldn’t deny the resemblance.  

At the first meet-up of the two families, there were tears. 

Paula marveled that Rebecca’s favourite food was crab legs, just like hers. Kevin’s family commented that Callie – who had just placed second in the Tiny Miss Greene County beauty pageant – had a smile just like her biological father’s.  

"We felt there was a connection there already," Kevin’s sister, Pam Miskovsky, told The Washington Post. "Regardless of how things turn out, they are part of our family now.

"The way we see it, we lost six family members and now God's given us another family back."

The families sued the hospital and eventually won settlements. But then there were the arguments over who Callie and Rebecca should live with. 

In 1999, Paula decided to sue Rebecca’s grandparents for custody of her biological daughter. 

A psychologist gave evidence that moving Rebecca away from the only home she’d known would cause her incalculable harm, as she’d already lost the only parents she’d ever known. 

The judge ruled that the two girls should remain with the families that had raised them, but each family was given visitation rights. 

Things got a little twisted. 

At some point along the way, Carlton fell for Kevin’s sister Pam Miskovsky. They married in 2001, with Paula vehemently objecting to the idea of Callie attending the wedding, and a judge ruling that it would be “too confusing” for her to go. 

Carlton and Miskovsky went on to bring up Rebecca and Lindsey, as well as three sons of their own. 

Then, in 2003, there was tragedy for Paula. One of her sons from a previous relationship, Frankie, took his own life at the age of 15. 

Paula told The Telegraph that she realised how Kevin and Whitney’s parents had felt. 

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“I had tried to imagine what it was like to lose a child but you never know until it happens to you,” she said.

The Telegraph visited Paula and Callie at their home in 2009. 

Paula had by then married again. 

Callie was still visiting Kevin and Whitney's families, but Paula said she hadn’t seen Rebecca in two years. 

She had gone through therapy to help her deal with the trauma caused by the death of her son, as well as not having her biological child living with her. 

Despite all that, Paula and Callie clearly had a close relationship. 

“I thank God every day because now I have her,” Paula said. “I don't know where my life would be without her. She is the most amazing child.”

Callie said Paula was her “best friend”. 

“I can tell her anything because I know she won't judge me,” she added. 

In 2013, the year Rebecca turned 18, she spoke to MailOnline. Cuddling up to her stepmother Miskovsky, she insisted she didn’t regret the way things had turned out.

“I am very thankful for the life I have,” she said. “I would not go back and change a single second of it.” 

Feature Image: Getty.

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