LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A 40-year saga involving a child kidnapping and a decades long search for a woman’s birth mother ended in an L.A. courtroom Wednesday, as mother and daughter were reunited and adult adoption papers certified.

Ronique “Pepper” Smith, 41, was 3-months old when she was kidnapped from her biological mother, Jolene Coleman, by her babysitter, Shirley, in the early 1970s. Shirley then gave Smith to Barbara Christie who legally adopted the little girl. When Christie adopted Smith, Coleman’s legal rights were terminated.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports.

Four years later, Shirley abducted Smith for the second time. She forced the girl to live out her childhood in a series of motels, never knowing her true identity.

Smith’s kidnapping case was the topic of a Dateline investigation in March and that is when Coleman identified her daughter. The woman contacted attorney Gloria Allred, who represents Smith, and through a DNA comparison, identified the biological connection.

“I feel for the first time in my life, like a whole person . . . no longer fragmented. I feel like I can stand up proud and tall, speak my name with confidence, knowing it is me,” Smith told reporters Wednesday.

A judge Wednesday restored Smith and Coleman’s legal relationship as parent and child.

“It’s a miracle that I thought would never ever come about. And I’m thankful for it,” Coleman said.

Comments (8)
  1. Lenny Fisher says:

    Wow,what a bizzare story

  2. denise says:

    while i enjoy this happy ending, what about the woman named shirley? surely she will be charged with kidnapping

    1. CS says:

      Shirley died back in the late 80’s

  3. rick says:

    ok question SHIRLEY kid naps the child and later gives the child to a friend who legally adopted the child?? HOW? AND when this adoption became legal the rights of the real mom got severed? im lost how do you know whos rights to sever if you dont know that it was her kid in the first place?? and if you knew it was her kid in the first place and the kid is listed as KIDNAPED why would you process the adoption? i think something is missing here

  4. Sophie says:

    Her adoption was likely illegallynprocessed or possibly she was listed as an abandoned child so therefore they wouldnterminate the mother’s rights without ever having to locate who the actual mother was. My halfnsister was stolen from my own mother and possibly adoptednin 1959. My mothers rights were terminated and they did notneven have her permission to take the baby. Look up Duplessis orphans. My mother wanted her baby and still the convent run hospital was allowed to take her healthy child list it as mentally defect justbto get mxore govern,ent money and all just because she was born out of wedlock. Notneverything considered legal is right or actually legal.

    1. Sophie says:

      Sorry about the typos. Hard to type on an ipad touch screen key board late at night when tired.

  5. Elle Emm says:

    Oh, there is DEFINATELY something missing in this story. These two girls are so desperate to have family, that they are willing to buy the bs that their bio mom is telling them. Ronique was “kidnapped” at only 3 months of age. And yet, the SAME KIDNAPPER kidnapper her younger brother also? There is more to this story than we are being told.

    I am happy that the girls are happy, and that they have found and met their baby brother. I just wish their mother would be honest with them. Something no-one has seen fit to do all their lives. 😦

  6. snicker doodle says:

    The Christies gave Ronique everything. Barbara and Robert Christie desperately searched for their daughter after Shirley kidnapped her from them. When she was reunited with them last yr. they welcomed her home with open arms. And now they’ve been dumped because, oh well, the “real” mother has been found.

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