Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Baby on the Low-Low

Life was not going well for poor Patty Bigbee. Her youngest daughter, Stephanie, had gotten pinched on a fraud case and was being held without bond which left Patty to care for Stephanie’s eleven-week old son Aidan. Patty was already struggling financially and her daughter was constantly lamenting that she needed a new car and had to find some way to cover her mounting court costs. Things were looking bleak until Patty and Stephanie hatched a plan to raise a little capital….

     Stephanie                           Patty                         Lawrence

In July of this year, Patty began scouring the Internet for the long-lost daughter she had given up for adoption in 1983. After weeks of tireless searching, she finally made contact with her now 27 year-old daughter Danielle via Facebook. The two exchanged contact information and spoke on the phone on several occasions. Danielle was undoubtedly flattered that her long lost mother had finally taken the effort to contact her and inquire about her life.

Danielle told Patty about her recent experiences as a young wife and mother and openly mused that she would love to add a few more children to the family. It was at this point that Patty’s entrepreneurial intuition kicked in and she offered to sell baby Aiden for the bargain price of $75,000 and she and her boyfriend Lawrence were even willing to throw in a gently-used stroller. While the exact sequence of events following this initial offering have yet to be revealed, Danielle quickly contacted local law enforcement who encouraged her to continue with “Operation Baby Bargain” while they monitored the situation.

Over the next several months, Danielle was able to whittle away at the infant’s retail price until both parties agreed on $30,000 (the stroller would still be included). They agreed to meet on November 6th in the parking lot of a Daytona Beach Best Buy to complete the transaction. Danielle was accompanied by an undercover officer and after Patty was provided with a cashier’s check, she and her boyfriend dutifully provided the merchandise.

Patty and her boyfriend were immediately arrested and questioned by local law enforcement which is when things got disturbing. Patty told police that Aiden’s incarcerated mother, Stephanie, had asked her to sell the child so that she could pay court costs and “get a new car.” The mother agreed to sell the child but only if she could take a ten percent broker’s fee for the transaction. As the plot unfolded, it was revealed that Patty had lied to her daughter concerning the child’s retail value, claiming that Aiden was only worth $10,000. It appeared that grandma was going to pull the old Sioux City Switcheroo and pocket $20,000 plus her agreed-upon $1,000 cut. Authorities are currently looking into allegations that Aiden’s father not only encouraged the transaction, but was eager to father more revenue generating offspring with Stephanie if everything went smoothly with son number one. Aiden is currently with Florida child services.

Barring the obvious questions concerning the existence and current condition of the participant’s souls, there 
are some finer points to the case that caught my attention.

1. Why was it necessary for the newborn’s price to be talked down in order for the investigation to proceed? Was that all that the local police department had available for the buy? I realize that most municipalities are struggling with a dwindling tax base and a “black-market infant purchase” budget line item is a tough sell to the city council, but they weren’t going to let her cash it anyway so what did it matter? Perhaps there is a jurisdictional enhancement for haggling? I am not sure what I find more disgusting; that the grandmother was willing to sell her own grandson or that she was willing to give a 70% discount to the first person that made her an offer. Everyone knows that only suckers give in to the first buyer.

2. How did they prep Danielle in the fine art of newborn negotiations? Did they bring in a used car salesmen to shadow her? I can only imagine what the phone conversations must have been like:

Danielle – “I don’t know mom, seventy-five thousand just seems like a lot…”
Granny – “I am practically giving the kid away; you should see his Babinski reflex!”
Danielle – “Even so, Dan and I were really set on getting a Land Rover next year.”
Granny – “I am telling you, this kid is almost ready to work a push mower he is so strong!”
Danielle – “Would you take $20,000, if you keep the stroller?”
Granny – “I would love to sell him to you because I promised myself that I would keep him with family, but there is a Lebanese warlord up the street that is really pushing hard….. I tell you what, give me $30,000 for the kid, downgrade to Honda CR-V, and we have a deal.”

3. Did the exchange occur during Best Buy’s business hours? Did some customers notice that a baby was being exchanged for a cashier’s check in the middle of an outdoor strip-mall? I cannot fault the populace too much, because I know if I were to tell my wife that I think I just saw some sell a baby from the back of a Toyota Camry she tell me to shut up and get in the car before I made us any later than we already are.    

What kind of a society do we live in that a woman cannot be trusted to sell her own grandchild without trying to skim something off the top? Whatever happened to integrity in human trafficking?  

At any rate, I doubt poor Danielle will ever recover. She goes 27 years having never spoken to her birthmother and when they finally meet their first conversation ends with “How much will you give me for the kid?” Patty should have to spend the rest of her life cleaning the men’s rooms of Arkansas truck stops during the chili-dog festival to pay for Danielle’s counseling sessions.

I can only hope that twenty years from now, when Aiden is on a date with a college classmate and she asks what his birth family was like, he will be able to truthfully say, “I don’t remember anything about them.”  I wish I could say the same….

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