Mother reunites with daughter 53 years after her kidnapping

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Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images
Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images

It had become an age-old pain that Sarah Peterson had learnt to live with. A feeling she describes as a death when her then-four-year-old daughter was kidnapped by her nanny. Over half a century later, when she had no active hope of ever finding her little girl, she was finally reunited with her daughter.

Meeting her daughter for the first time in over 50 years was like an out-of-body experience Sarah explained in an interview with WJLA. “I didn’t want to let her go. I think I was crushing her bones. We’re not talking about 10 years, 20, 30 years. We are talking about 53 years. Oh my God, 53 years,” she exclaimed, with her daughter, Roberta Lavonne Peterson, echoing similar sentiments.

Sarah grew up in the 1950s in Alexandria, Virginia.  When she became pregnant at the age of 16, her father took her out of school, kicked her out of their home and told her to get a job and get married. She then moved in with her grandmother who lived not too far from her family’s home.

In July 1966 Sarah gave birth and the pressure of her finding a job and someone to look after her baby girl became eminent. A family member referred her to private babysitter named Alberta Lathern, who lived in Northwest Washington. “She came off as very pleasant, very nice, very sweet, very loving person. I couldn’t say anything, at that time, negative about her because she treated her [Roberta] so well,” Sarah told another publication.

The welcoming persona Alberta gave off would soon leave a bitter taste in Sarah’s mouth. When she went to fetch her daughter one afternoon, she was welcomed by an ajar door to Alberta’s empty house.

Sarah recalls, “She never said she was going to move. She never told us anything. Where in the world is she and she’s got our baby?” This was followed by multiple futile attempts to try to find Alberta and Roberta. Sarah approached lawyers who asked her for money she didn’t have. Law enforcement told her she didn’t have enough evident and she notes that not even a statement was ever taken on the incident. She would walk around the streets of her neighborhood hopeful that any baby girl she saw in the street was her daughter. All her attempts were in vain.

Her 50 years of agony came to an instant stop with a call from her sister, Deborah. “I got a call from my sister and she said, ‘You know, something strange happened today’,” she recalls. Deborah and Roberta’s daughter, Ursula, were picking up food from the same soup kitchen in Alexandria when their last names were called at the same time and they got to talking.

Upon conversation, the two realised that’s Ursula’s mom, Roberta, and Deborah’s sister, Sarah, were the two long-lost relatives searching for each other for over 50 years. The mother and daughter reunited last month and have been inseparable since.

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