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Mother Says She Won’t Quit Fight For Custody of Son Switched at Birth

December 2, 1992

ATLANTA (AP) _ A woman whose 9-year-old son was mistakenly switched with another child at birth said Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear her case won’t stop her from fighting to gain custody of him.

Jodie Paul said 9-year-old Melvin calls her ″Mommy″ and doesn’t want to return to the Kentucky couple who adopted him after the mixup at the hospital where he was born.

″Melvin is my son and I’ve been fighting for him a long time. Whatever the next step is, I’m ready to do whatever I have to,″ she said at a news conference with her attorneys. ″He wants to stay with us.″

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear her appeal of a lower court judge’s ruling awarding custody to Melvin’s adoptive parents, Eugene and Edith Moore of Fort Knox, Ky.

Melvin has been living with Mrs. Paul in Griffin since Thanksgiving 1991, when he came for a visit. She refused to return him, saying his adoptive mother had abused him. Mrs. Moore has denied that allegation.

Fulton Superior Court Judge Frank Eldridge awarded the Moores custody while allowing Mrs. Paul visitation rights. But Mrs. Paul won’t recognize the order.

Her lawyers said they are waiting to see what the Moores will do now.

The Moores’ lawyer, David Gray, said they hadn’t decided how to proceed.

″Obviously they would like to have custody of their little boy,″ he said.

Mrs. Paul, then Jodie Denise Pope, gave birth to a son Oct. 7, 1983, at Griffin Spalding Hospital the same day another boy was born to a woman who planned to give her baby up for adoption.

The hospital accidentally swapped the babies before sending their mothers home.

The switch was discovered five years later, when Mrs. Paul and her then- husband, Walter Pope, were getting a divorce.

Pope claimed he didn’t father their son, Cameron, and blood tests showed that neither he nor Mrs. Paul were Cameron’s biological parents. Mrs. Paul subsequently learned the Moores had adopted her son and named him Melvin.

Mrs. Paul, now 28, adopted Cameron and sought custody of Melvin. She later remarried.

Mrs. Paul’s lawyer, Tom Malone, said Eldridge gave the Moores custody without considering Mrs. Paul’s claims that Melvin had been abused after Mrs. Moore discovered he was not the child she meant to adopt.

The Moores had specified they wanted a child of mixed race. Mrs. Moore is white. Her husband is black. Melvin is white.

Both the Moores and Mrs. Paul have sued the Georgia Department of Human Resources for botching the adoption. The hospital also was sued and settled for $900,000, Mrs. Paul’s attorneys say.

Malone and John Newton, the Moores’ lawyer in Griffin, said the case is likely to resume in Spalding County Superior Court, where the Moores have filed papers demanding Mrs. Paul explain why she won’t turn Melvin over.

The court refused to consider the request until the appeal of Eldridge’s order was exhausted. Now it is up to the Moores to request another hearing.