Real Names: Dylene Zolikoff, Scott Merz, and Dawnette Barker
Case: Lost Family
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Date: January 1960 to 1966
Details: Ethel Nation was a nurse in San Antonio, Texas during the 1950s and 1960s who used deceit and subterfuge to abduct and illegally sell several children during her career. In December 1959, eighteen-year-old Dylene Zolikoff was alone, scared, and seven months pregnant; she was taken in by Ethel. On January 6, 1960, she gave birth to a daughter who Ethel spirited off and sold under shady circumstances. Ethel denied having anything to do with the disappearance of Dylene's daughter, but in 1968, she found a picture of her daughter in Ethel's house. She spent years trying to track her down, and more than twenty years later, she and her now grown daughter were finally reunited on an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."
Unfortunately, this was not the only child Ethel abducted from its birth mother. Two of them, Scott Merz and Dawnette Barker, are also looking for their birth families. Scott was born in 1965 in San Antonio and given by Ethel to a couple unable to have children who paid her $1200. When he was ten, he began having strange dreams about a dark hospital room with a doctor, nurse, and woman giving birth. He believed that he was born in that room. When he was eighteen, he and his adoptive mother, Mary Merz, began searching for his birth mother. They visited Ethel a total of six times in order to get information from her. She told him that he had been born in three different hospitals, but none of them had his birth records. On the final visit, she became angry and claimed that his mother did not want him, tried to get an abortion, she was a horrible person, and that he should stop looking for her.
Scott and Mary did not give up; they visited another place where Ethel claimed that he was born at: the Community Health Center, which in 1965 was called the Woodlawn Clinic. As he walked through the hallways, he felt as if he had been there before. He realized that it was the same place that he had seen in his dream. He believes that he was born there. However, he has yet to find his birth mother.
Scott has met a woman with a similar story as his: Dawnette Barker, who had been born in July 1966 and also sold by Ethel to a childless couple in San Antonio. Her adoptive parents were told to choose between either two twin boys and her. They chose her, but did not believe that they were taking her home once they got there, so they did not have the $1700 that Ethel had asked for. In the end, they gave her their fourteen-foot ski boat.
When she was eighteen, Dawnette began searching for her birth family. She discovered that her birth mother's name was Gloria Cantu; her illegal adoption papers had been notarized by Ethel. Dawnette spoke with her several times; she told her the same story that she had told Scott, that her mother also wanted an abortion. It is unknown as to how many children Ethel illegally abducted and placed with other couples. She died in 1991, her secrets going to the grave with her.
Scott Merz was born on August 5, 1965, in San Antonio, Texas. His birth mother's name was listed as Joyce Koehier and she may have been twenty-two-years-old at the time. His adoptive mother actually met her once and said that she was thin with dark hair and an olive complexion.
Dawnette Barker's birth date is listed as July 21, 1966, although she may have been born weeks earlier. Her mother, Gloria Cantu, may have been twenty-three-years-old at the time.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the October 28, 1992 episode.
Results: Unresolved. After the broadcast, several viewers called in to confirm Dawnette's mother as Gloria Cantu Martinez of San Antonio, Texas. She had never wanted to give her up for adoption, but had been deceived by Ethel into doing so. She and Dawnette were reunited on November 9, 1992, as a result, along with Dawnette's four children.
However, sadly, Scott has not found any closure in his search. Dylene passed away in 2009 at the age of 68.
- Scott Merz at Unsolved.com
- A Mother Reunites With Her Daughter After 31 Years on The Oprah Show - June 3, 1991