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Paper: Parents of Switched Baby Died

August 3, 1998

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) _ The mystery of two baby girls switched at birth took a sad twist with the discovery that the couple who raised one of the girls died in a car crash last month, a day after the woman raising the other baby discovered the girl was not her biological daughter.

Kevin Chittum and Tamara Whitney Rogers died on July 4 in a head-on crash on Interstate 81 that killed five others. Their 3-year-old daughter, Rebecca, was at home with relatives, who have taken care of her since the accident.

When those relatives saw the picture of Paula Johnson’s blond-haired, blue-eyed girl, Callie Marie, they were shocked, USA Today reported today. ``My God! It’s Kevin’s child!,″ said Mary Watts, Chittum’s aunt. ``She’s the spitting image of our family.″

The newspaper reported that Ms. Johnson wept when the paper told her that her biological daughter had apparently been located.

On Sunday, officials at the University of Virginia Medical Center said an internal investigation determined that the mix-up could not have happened by accident.

Thomas Massaro, the hospital’s chief of staff, said that a 3-year-old girl _ who DNA tests showed is not related to the woman who raised her _ was banded with an identification bracelet within minutes of her birth.

The investigation has not shown how the switch took place, Massaro said. University of Virginia police are investigating the case as a criminal act.

Ms. Johnson has reportedly said the matching identification bracelets hospitals use to link parents and their children were not placed on her baby in the birthing room at the hospital in July 1995.

Her account, which she told to friends who spoke to The Washington Post for a Sunday story, runs counter to the hospital’s written policy requiring wrist and ankle bracelets be placed on newborns at birth, with a bracelet bearing matching serial numbers also placed on the mother.

News accounts of what took place in the birthing room are ``in stark contrast to what is in the medical record,″ Massaro said. ``Banding was documented, and the documentation was corroborated.″

Last week, the university contacted Rebecca’s family and conducted DNA tests that confirmed Rebecca was not the child conceived by Chittum and Rogers, Watts told USA Today.

Chittum, 25, and Rogers, his 19-year-old fiancee, also had a 1-year-old daughter.

A custody arrangement will divide the care of the girls between Chittum’s parents and Rogers’ divorced parents in four-month intervals. However, relatives of the Chittums told USA Today that his parents plan to seek full custody of the two girls.

Ms. Johnson, 30, has retained a lawyer but has not filed a lawsuit in the matter. She told USA Today that she does not want to give up Callie Marie or take her biological daughter from the only family she has known.

``This girl has already experienced so much tragedy in her three years. I just wanted to know her name, to see what she looked and to know my daughter,″ she said.

But Chittum’s relatives want to seek custody of Callie, the newspaper said.

``Callie looks just like Kevin’s little baby,″ said Lisa Camden, Chittum’s cousin. ``And if this lady could see Rebecca ... She looks just like her.

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