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Real Name: Patricia Bonner
Case: Lost Mother
Date: September 1965
Details: When Michelle Neal-Arkin was sixteen, she applied for a part-time job, but was turned down because her birth certificate was not legal. She told her mother, Laverne, but she claimed that it must have been a mistake. Laverne, however, knew the truth: Michelle was not her biological daughter.
In September 1965, Laverne and her husband Wilbur Neal had been married for four years and wanted to have children. They had been unsuccessful biologically, so friends of theirs, Raleigh and Juanita Gord, contacted them about an infant available for adoption. The baby was the daughter of Patricia Bonner, a friend of the Gords who was unable to care for the child herself. She entrusted the Gords with finding the child a home. The Neals took the baby home and named her Michelle. Two weeks later, Patricia called and asked if she could see her daughter. They learned that Patricia had been widowed while she was pregnant with Michelle. She also already had three other children to raise. With little money and support, Patricia felt that giving Michelle away was necessary.
Two weeks after visiting Patricia, the Neals returned to have her sign more adoption papers. However, when they arrived at the apartment, Patricia and her three children were gone without leaving a forwarding address. The absence of formal adoption papers did not affect Michelle's childhood. When she was five, the Neals had a son, Steven, who was their biological child. The Neals decided to keep her adoption hidden from her to not let her feel left out from the family. When Michelle began school, a friend of the Neals helped create a fake birth certificate, naming them as Michelle's biological parents. By the time Michelle entered high school, she became more suspicious of her past. She often asked her parents if she was adopted, but they always denied it.
Finally, when she was sixteen, the Neals decided to tell Michelle that she was, indeed, adopted. Michelle was furious because her parents had lied to her for her entire life. She moved out and got an apartment with her friends. However, after a few weeks she understood why her parents had hidden the truth from her, so she returned to them. Years later, Michelle married and now she is a parent herself. With her adopted parents' blessing, Michelle has begun to search for her mother, Patricia, and her three older siblings.
Extra Notes: The case first aired on the February 2, 1996 episode.
Results: Solved. Michelle's half-sister Sandra watched the broadcast and called the telecenter, and during their conversation, they planned a reunion. Michelle was happy to learn that her mother, Patricia Bonner Perez, was alive, well, and living in Chicago, just ten miles from her. She also learned that, in addition to her two sisters and brother, she had two half-brothers and a half-sister.
The next weekend at a hotel in Chicago, Michelle, her husband, and their children, were reunited with her mother Patricia, along with her siblings, half-siblings, and several other relatives. Michelle's adopted parents were also present, happy to finally see their adopted daughter meet her birth family.