Where are they going, where have they been?

Illustration by Evan Stamps | The Signal

This article was corrected at 11:51 a.m. on Nov. 11, 2018, to include the most up-to-date information.

“It’s not they don’t want to be found. I think it’s more if they are found, then what?” Laura Norton said of abducted Grady Memorial Hospital babies. “Once you find these children, who are now adults, the story’s not over.”

Grady Hospital was No. 1 for highest infant abductions in 2006 from a near-20-year study conducted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children since 1983.

A total of eight babies were kidnapped since the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, —all African-American and all born to mothers who, on average, were 18 years old. Seven were taken from Grady Hospital and one was taken from the mother’s home after being followed from the maternity ward.

Of those eight, Tavish Sutton and Raymond Green are still missing.

Laurah Norton is a Georgia State English lecturer and the creator of “The Fall Line” podcast, which investigates cold cases such as the Grady baby abductees.

Season 2 of “The Fall Line,” titled “The Grady Babies,” chronicles six episodes featuring stories of “mental health and the value placed on young mothers and their babies and how that value changes based on the hospital you can afford,” out later this fall.

“We find families who are interested in having their stories told and we work with them to tell their stories,” Norton said. “What we do is provide a platform, so everyone can hear the stories they’ve already been telling.”

November 1978
Donna Green, the mother of Raymond Green, has been telling her story since ‘78.

Green, a 16-year-old mother, had just given birth to Raymond Green at Grady Memorial Hospital. Green chatted with a woman named Lisa, who told Green she was her neighbor, in the maternity ward while Raymond laid in his crib.

Green, needing a ride home, asked Lisa. Her new friend didn’t hesitate.

Lisa drove to Green’s apartment. Green said goodbye and brought her newborn home.

A couple days later, Lisa surprised Green at her door. Green welcomed her inside. They settled in and chatted while Raymond rested.

Green excused herself to the upstairs bathroom.

When Green returned, she looked for Lisa. She looked for her newborn.

Both were gone.

“When the police were called, it took several hours, there wasn’t much follow-up, but that was ’78,” Norton said.

In 1978, technology and security lagged by today’s standards.

“The woman who kidnapped him was actually allowed on the maternity ward and she was there for days. She just said she was a relative,” Norton said.

October 2018
Donna Green is now an advocate for missing persons.

Norton, also a mother, has worked very close with Green over Season 2 of “The Fall Line,” and Green’s 40-year search for her son motivates Norton to tell Green’s story.

“Working with her and the fact that her son is going to be 40 years old soon and she has no idea where he is. He’s in the wind. And just kind of watching her, imagining that, [while] also having a son,” Norton said. “That’s 40 years of not giving up.”

Green’s generation did not have the same technology that is available today to assist her in finding her son.

“If my child went missing, I have the privilege of bringing down the house about that and she did not as a 16-year-old mother in 1978,” Norton said. “She did not have access to the things I have access to, and it’s not because I have a greater ability to use them, it’s because they are offered to me.”

Through their work together, Norton and Green have extended help to other families.

“She’s become so serious about this that she’s developing her own podcast, which we’re helping her with, to tell families what to do when someone goes missing,” Norton said.

The Abductors
The unidentified abductors have all been women. In Green’s case, the woman claimed to be Lisa Morris, but that was a fake name.

“Many of the women have struggled with mental health issues, they’ve been in abusive relationships,” Norton said. “The majority of the ones that have been identified were teenagers, so there’s also a lack of mental health available to the women that were seeking babies in the first place.”

Of the Grady abductors, three were teenagers and four were in their 20s and 30s. Another teenager, separate from Grady, followed a woman home from the hospital for her baby. One of the teenage abductors was suspected in a trafficking scheme; however, this is not usually the case.

“Trafficking is something we talk about a lot, but trafficking of infants is not as big of a thing as trafficking of children,” Norton said.

The others were suspected to have been desperate to have their own babies.

“Women [needed] a child for some reason, either because they cannot have their own child or because they have lost a child and told people that they are pregnant,” Norton said.

Of the adults, one woman suffered a miscarriage and was afraid she’d lose her husband. Another abductor was single, living with her parents.

The juveniles were found catching MARTA to Grady hospital and taking the baby. As a result, they were often caught. The identified abductors, who succeeded, were all women in their 20s and 30s.

“There was an established relationship created. One of them went on the ward dressed as a nurse. That’s a very common thing that happens. The other one was able to sneak in as a family member,” Norton said. “There was a plan in place. They knew the schedule of the nurses, they knew when checks were done.”

The Abducted
Tavish Sutton and Raymond Green, the two babies who are still missing, may have an easier life not being found.

“I think that they don’t know. The question is, ‘Would they want to know?’” Norton said. “Because that’s part of the problem. What do they do with that information? Because what you’ve done, practically speaking, is turn their lives upside down.”

Being found ensues a price, sometimes lawsuits by their own family.

But, in the case of Shanta Yvette Alexander, an abduction resulted in something life-affirming.

Alexander went missing in 1981, a four-year difference between Raymond Green’s disappearance in 1978, yet had a completely different outcome.

They had two forensic sketches of the kidnapper for Alexander within an hour of abduction. The police aggressively sought for her, pushing Alexander’s photo out.

“[Alexander] was recovered quickly. So much so, that the baby grew up to become law enforcement because it was such a striking experience for her that the Atlanta P.D. worked so hard to save her,” Norton said.

Yet, knowing where to place the blame for those still missing, like that of Sutton and Green, is not so clear.

“Raymond Green got a one paragraph article on page four of the AJC, and that was all the news coverage. Not a single TV station. That was it,” Norton said.

Donna Green moved back to Atlanta, trying to get more attention on the case, but the Atlanta Police Department didn’t have anything on record—they lost it.

“We’re looking at a police force that didn’t have computers at the time. Thousands of files. Leaks moving, etc.,” Norton said. “But she had to take in that one little article to prove that her son had been missing.

“That’s not the fault of one system, that’s the fault of everybody.”