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Baby Kidnapped

Updated on December 29, 2017
Anita Hasch profile image

I live on a homestead in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Writing and reading are my passion.

Police Investigate A Murder

On May 17, 1975, Homicide Investigator Thies, of the Van Nuys Division of the Los Angeles Police Department, was called to the scene of a murder in North Hollywood. In the master bedroom of a flat, he and his partner, Detective Miller, found the body of 28 year old Katherine Viramontes. Her throat had been cut. Even more horrendous, the officers discovered that a Caesarean section had been performed on Mrs Viramontes, and the baby was missing.

They were told that the last time Mrs Viramontes was seen alive she was with a friend called Norma.

The Detectives Went To Norma's Flat

When the Detectives arrived at Norma’s flat, they found her son and daughter caring for their eight-month-old sister, Cerry. Norma, they said, had just given birth to a baby boy and she was at the Kaiser hospital. The policemen searched the flat and a nearby vacant plot. On the plot a detective found a bag containing syringes, vials and other medical supplies. There was a plastic sheet and towels stained with blood. After informing Thies of their discovery, the detectives went to the Kaiser Hospital to arrest Norma.

The Detectives Realized That The Babies Were Not Hers

The detectives found the 44 year old nurse in bed. The detective introduced himself and his partner and explained that they were investigating a murder and needed to clear up some facts. Norma had refused examination when she first checked into the hospital. The detectives spoke to the doctor in charge of the maternity unit, and explained the situation.

The doctor was shocked by what they told him and told Norma that she must be examined. He was so amazed when he discovered that Norma had undergone a hysterectomy years ago. When he told the detectives of her hysterectomy they realized that the baby could not be hers.

They then remembered the eight-month-old baby girl they had seen in Norma’s flat with her two grown-up children. Norma couldn’t have given birth to that child either. They wondered if another murder had been committed. They arranged for both babies to be placed in protective custody.

Mary Childs' Went Into Labor

Eight months previously, on the evening of September 20, 1974, thirty seven year old Mary Childs was driven to the Kaiser hospital when she started getting labor pains. Her sister in law took her to the hospital as her husband was away on business. They arrived at 9pm and Mary was taken to an examining room in the maternity ward. The doctor checked her to determine the position and size of the baby. The doctor told her that it was a big baby, and would weigh approximately four kg.

In a labor room, an intravenous drip was set so a sugar solution could be fed into a vein through a needle. Doctors and nurses checked upon Mary’s progress regularly.

At 11.45 Mary’s amniotic membrane ruptured, but Mary wasn’t ready to deliver. The doctor left and a nurse came in to adjust the drip. The nurse left and Mary was alone. She soon became drowsy and fell asleep. The doctor in charge of obstetrics, examined Mary shortly before 4am, and decided that she’d deliver in an hour or two.

The Doctor Was Puzzled

Another doctor, who was off duty and sleeping in a nearby room, was awakened at about 4.30am, by obstetric nurse Norma Armistead. She told him Mrs Childs had given birth to her baby while she was alone in the labor room.

Hurrying over, the doctor was shocked to find a tiny, dead baby boy lying between Mary’s legs. He tried to talk to Mary, but she seemed lethargic and was unable to respond. To the doctor the infant looked as if he had died many hours prior to delivery. However, Norma Armistead, who had been an obstetric nurse for nine years, told him she had discovered the baby just as he saw it. She had just tidied up the bed a bit and covered Mary with a sheet.

The doctor was puzzled as Mary’s chart indicated she would have a full-term child? How could she have given birth to a tiny, stillborn baby. After questioning other staff members, he concluded that her doctor must have overestimated the baby’s weight.

The Tests Showed Traces of Drugs

Mary was still lethargic when the doctor tried to talk to her several hours later. He ordered blood and urine tests. The tests showed puzzling traces of morphine and morphine derivatives. No sedatives had been described. Then several doctors strode in, followed by Dorothy, her sister-in-law. Mary knew that something was wrong. ‘Is my baby dead?’ she cried. Although Mary denied that she had taken any drugs, the staff did not believe her.

The doctor told Mary of the delivery of her stillborn, 1.75 kilogram baby. ‘My baby was moving when I was in labor, it can’t be dead. ' she cried.

Mary Spend The Time In a Haze of Grief

The doctor explained that excess fluid may have caused misjudgment of the baby’s weight. Mary was very upset. Her husband signed permission to have their baby cremated.

The Detective Investigates Cerry's Identity

After Norma was jailed, Detective Thies set about working on the puzzle of the little baby girl Cerry’s identity. He called the Los Angeles County Administrators Office and asked for a copy of the birth certificate. From it he learned that Cerry had been born on September 21, 1974, at 4.35am. The detective called the Kaiser hospital to determine where Norma was at the time shown and learned that she had been working in the maternity unit. Files revealed that a stillborn baby boy had disappeared from the hospital a few days before Cerry’s birth, and that a few days later Norma had discovered Mary Childs with a stillborn baby boy.


Mary Listened In Stunned Silence

The detectives discovered that Norma was a former mental hospital patient, and that she had swopped the stillborn infant in place of Mary’s living child. When Mary Childs greeted the three men from Kaiser Hospital, she had no way of knowing they were bringing her a miracle. Dr Roorda said that they had come to talk to her about the baby she had delivered at Kaiser Hospital eight months ago.

Mary listened in stunned silence while the doctor told her about Norma Armistead and the little girl called Cerry. But how could she be sure that this Cerry was really her baby? When Mary went to the foster home where the baby was being kept and saw Cerry, bright-eyed and smiling, all doubts vanished. Cerry looked just like her daughter Danielle had looked when she was a baby.

Mary and Christy Won The Civil Action

As Mary picked up her eight-month-old daughter for the first time, she laughed through her tears of joy. Mary and William Childs were awarded custody of Cerry on June 25, 1975. The parents renamed their baby Christy Ann Childs. Katherine Viramontes baby boy was given into the custody of her husband.

Norma Armistead was sentenced to life imprisonment for the first-degree murder of Katherine Viramontes, as well as to the kidnapping of Mary’s daughter.

Mary and Christy Ann won a civil action for damages against Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, as well as against the doctors concerned, for medical malpractice and negligently caused emotional distress.

© 2017 Anita Hasch


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    • Anita Hasch profile imageAUTHOR

      Anita Hasch 

      16 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      It is an amazing story. This women was obviously deeply disturbed. Killing a pregnant woman to get her child. Good work on the part of the detectives, they were just investigating the disappearance of the newborn and the murder but were clever to realize that the other child could not be hers.

    • Anita Hasch profile imageAUTHOR

      Anita Hasch 

      16 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      Yes, Jodah, the Angels must surely have helped. It is a blessing that they got the baby back while she was still small. It is just amazing that this could happen in such a large hospital. But I suppose it was because of the time of the birth, not many staff on the floor. It would be a good idea if they installed cameras in certain areas of the maternity floor. Like for instance by the door of the labor rooms. Could then check who comes in and leaves with a baby.

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Wow! That is kind of disturbing... swapping kids and then killing a woman after you've preformed a C-section on her. Ouch. Must have been disturbing the the detectives, but at least the case was solved.

      Excellent! Cheers!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      16 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Wow! Anita, this was a very disturbing true story. I am pleased it had a happy ending, at least for Mary, William, and Christy. Thank you for sharing.


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