baby

Dr Thomas Hicks told Thelma her baby had died. One week later, he sold the newborn for $1000.

On Mother’s Day 1997, the small US town of McCaysville, Georgia was thrown into the spotlight. News broke of how one of the local, and now deceased, doctors had sold hundreds of newborn babies from the back steps of his medical clinic.

Between 1950 to 1965, Dr Thomas Jugarthy Hicks, who was viewed as a cornerstone of the mining community, illegally sold over 200 babies into black market adoptions, according to county birth records.

The ‘Hicks Babies’ as they are now known, were often adopted out as an alternative to an illegal abortion for hundreds of biological mothers; he often convinced them to pursue this option rather than having their pregnancy terminated.

This is how Dr Thomas Hicks got away with his crime for over a decade. Post continues after video.

Video by WKYC

Upon delivering the newborn, Hicks would then adopt the baby out by secretly selling them for between $800-$1000 each. The price also included a forged birth certificate which had the adoptive parents’ name on it.

Hicks’ was described as a “popular, church-going man, revered by locals for his generosity,” and is understood to have sometimes performed abortions. The procedure, however, “did not entirely mesh with his beliefs.” Instead Hicks decided on another way forward, choosing to sell them to desperate couples who wanted children of their own.

In some reported cases it is alleged he also lied to a number of the birth mothers, telling them their newborn baby had died.

This was the case for Thelma Tipton whose daughter Kristie was sold to her adoptive parents in 1964.

Dr Hicks told Tipton at the time that her daughter was stillborn. “[He said] she had a bad heart… and I believed it,” Tipton said. He then proceeded to have Tipton sign the death certificate for her daughter who was in fact very much alive.

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Kristie was sold one week later to her adoptive parents.

“He stole my daughter,” Tipton said to ABC News. “He robbed me of my life… I missed out seeing [Kristie] growing up, missed out on her first tooth… her first day in school… I missed out on her wedding, I missed out on everything.”

Thomas Hicks stolen babies
“He robbed me of my life." Image: Nightline / ABC News

Due to the absence of accurate medical records it wasn’t until the story broke in 1997 that many, like Kristie started to piece things together and began to come forward with questions about their identity.

Currently 200 of these ‘babies’, now adults are trying to find answers, answers to who they really are, why this happened, and the identity and location of their birth parents before time runs out.

For many, the answer now lies with DNA testing, often through ancestry sites like ancestry.com.

Melinda Dawson who was illegally sold by Hicks in 1963 for $1000 is hoping that DNA testing will provide the answers she is looking for in order to find her biological family as it did for others of the ‘Hicks Babies’.

One of the first to speak publicly about being illegally sold, Dawson explained that initially she hit a brick wall, with “nobody [wanting] to help us at all,” she told WKYC.

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Despite the obstacles, Dawson pursued her investigation and located her birth certificate kept in a ‘special file’ at the local courthouse. On the document only her adoptive parents were listed - not her biological parents. DNA testing is now her only hope in finding the answers she desperately seeks.

For many, regardless of whether they have located their biological parents or are still searching, they are understandably significantly impacted by the actions of Hicks and have countless questions about what happened and why.

Many of the Hicks Babies’ are now connected with each other, offering support and assistance as they travel on their varying journeys to discover the truth about where they come from.

Hicks surrendered his medical licence in 1964 for performing an illegal abortion and unfortunately any chance of holding him accountable for his most horrendous criminal acts was taken away when he died in 1972, aged 83.

The Discovery Channel’s, TLC network are airing a three part series, titled Taken at Birth, this October which explores some of these questions from the ‘Hicks Babies’.

Shona Hendley, Mother of Goats, Cats and Humans is a freelance writer from Victoria. An ex secondary school teacher, Shona has a strong interest in education. She is an animal lover and advocate, with a morbid fascination for true crime and horror movies. You can follow her on Instagram @shonamarion.

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