November 21, 2021
Decades of searching finally yielded fruit for Florida man Robert Lightner, who grew up with adoptive parents desperate to hide his true identity.
For the first few decades of his life, Robert Lightner never knew he was adopted. The alarming discovery offset his life slightly in his adulthood, sending him on a hunt for his biological roots.
His first stop was the birth records department in Tallahassee. Lightner admitted to sending a letter to them, notifying them of his latest discovery that he was adopted. He received a call from them soon after.
A photo of Robert Lightner and his parents | Photo: Twitter.com/JordynMarkhoff
To his surprise, the woman at the other end of the phone did not seem a bit stumped as she calmly dished out another alarming truth.
Lightner recalled the person saying she knew who he was, a Cole baby. Being one of his first times hearing the term, the man proceeded to do his research.
He uncovered one of the most widespread cases of illegal adoption documented in history. The perpetrator, Doctor Kathrine Cole, who ran a clinic in Miami, supposedly sold over a thousand babies between 1930 and 1960.
A guy offering adoption papers and a pen to a lady | Photo: Pexels
Most of her victims were kids delivered at her hospital, whom she snatched from their mothers. She then delivered them to potential adoptive parents for a price.
What made her scheme untraceable for years was her unscrupulous practice of passing the adoptive parents as the real birth parents on the birth certificate. Josette Marques, a former Florida adoption official, described the practice as “playing God.”
Lightner’s adoptive parents guarded that secret with their lives, even going as far as sending him off to boarding school in England. After discovering the truth of his birth, Lightner commenced his hunt for his real parents and connected with other Cole babies on social media.
A couple discussing a serious issue together | Photo: Pexel
That went on for decades until he stumbled upon Ancestry.com. On his wife’s insistence, he conducted four DNA tests, which eventually led him to his half-aunt.
He eventually discovered he had two half-sisters, Sue and Linda Crosby. Lightner contacted them, only to discover he attended high school together in Miami with Sue. He shared:
“I got out my yearbook and saw her picture and said, ‘oh my God!’ I’m glad I didn’t hate her.”
The agent at the orphanage checking files | Photo: Getty Images
Linda has since planned a family get-together to introduce Lightner, who lost his
parents years ago, to the rest of his biological family.
Sadly, not all stories of the Cole babies have such a happy ending. Several still live in uncertainty, unable to trace their roots, while most do not even realize their whole lives have been one big scheme.