Janet Johnson will stop at nothing to find out what happened to her baby. A baby that doctors said was stillborn 23 years ago but whom Johnson believes is alive. She's searched for medical records, gone to the police and now she's filing a lawsuit.
"I want the hospital to know that we are serious, and we want answers," Johnson said. "That's why we're filing (the lawsuit). To let them know I'm not going to run and hide."The American Fork woman announced her intention to file a civil suit against Cottonwood Hospital at a Wednesday morning press conference in the office of her attorney, Allen Young.
"Where are our babies?" Johnson asked passionately.
Johnson was talking about her baby she buried in an American Fork city cemetery 23 years ago and the baby of a Nevada couple, James and Rae Jean Castille. The Castilles' baby, a boy, was also still-born at the hospital six days before Johnson delivered her son.
"I never knew about this other baby. Myself, I never had doubts that my baby was not born alive," Johnson said.
After watching a television talk show about mothers who were drugged during delivery and then were told their children had died, Johnson became suspcicous about her child's birth.
In the spring of this year, she had the body exhumed. DNA tests revealed the child was not hers and she contacted Murray police.
Young said Johnson hasn't been successful getting answers from hospital officials so he is helping her to initiate civil proceedings against two Cottonwood Hospital doctors and the administration.
Young said he cannot be specific about the legal proceedings because so much of the process is privileged information.
"We are acutely aware of the seriousness of the charges we're making," Young said. "Yet we want to protect Janet's rights, so we have to be careful."
However, he said, the bottom line is that Johnson did not bury her own baby two decades ago and deserves to have her questions answered.
"Specifically, what happened to Janet's baby?" Young said. "We want answers. We think the people at the hospital and the doctors know."
Johnson said she will not drop the matter until she is satisfied that the truth has been uncovered. "The claims I've made, the feelings I have had. Oh, you bet. I just feel more certain."
Johnson said the couple whose baby was born nearly a week earlier now have questions, too.
Rae Jean Castille's baby and Johnson's child were in the hospital's morgue at the same time. Police thought maybe the infants had been switched in the morgue, Murray Police detective Alex Huggard said.
Huggard traveled to Nevada to get a DNA sample from Castille to see if it matched the child thought to be Johnson's. The test came back negative last week from the LabCorp testing laboratory in North Carolina, eliminating the most likely possibility in the case, Huggard said
The Castilles, now living in the Las Vegas area, were contacted by the Deseret News but declined comment until obtaining legal advice.
The Castilles were told by hospital officials in 1975 that their child had died. Doctors then asked if they would donate the baby for research at University Hospital. They agreed.
But University Hospital may not have received the infant.
Hospital records show the Castille child was cremated at Cottonwood Hospital, Intermountain Health Care spokesman Jess Gomez said. It's unclear whether any skin tissue was sent to University Hospital for research.
"There's no question about the identity of the child," he said. "The records indicate the stillborn was cremated."
But 22 years after the fact, there is no way to prove the cremated child was that born to Castille, Huggard and Murray Lt. Gerry Christiansen said. Police have only hospital records with a notation that states the Castilles signed a cremation order.
Nor can University Hospital be sure if the baby's body or tissue samples were ever used in a research study, spokesman John Dwan said.
"Without specific information about the study or the (researcher) it would be almost impossible to determine," Dwan said.
Literally thousands of research studies are conducted annually through the hospital and each researcher conducts each study differently.
"There are two problems," Dwan said. "One, it's pre-computer, so we have only paper records, and the second problem is that the people are gone. They're either dead or retired."
As for a lawsuit, Gomez thinks it's a little early to point blame. Johnson's baby could have been switched with another at the funeral home or the cemetery, he said. No fault on the hospital's part has been established.
"If the hospital is responsible for the accidental mixup of Johnson's stillborn, we'll take responsibility," he said. "It's still premature until the investigation by police is completed and all the answers are known about what role the hospital played."
And while Murray police have a few other leads to follow, utimately, Huggard believes the key to mystery of Johnson's baby lies somewhere within the walls of Cottonwood Hospital.
"Our investigation is dependent on the leads they'll give us," Christiansen said. "We follow those until they either dead end or check out."