Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

T Harrell.jpg

Real Name: Muriel Carroll
Case: Lost Mother
Location: St. Louis, Missouri
Date: 1946


Details: Tim Harrell, a television news producer and veteran journalist, always knew that he was adopted. He was told by his adopted mother, Helen Harrell, that as an infant in 1946 he had been deserted by his birth mother in a garbage can behind Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, where Helen worked as a nurse. Tim had a cleft pallet, a heart murmur, and several other problems. Helen took him in and raised him; she also got help for his medical problems. Helen managed to adopt Tim in a time when single parenting was almost unheard of. According to Tim, she took the role of both father and mother for him. One day, when Tim was a child, he asked Helen about his birth mother. She told him that his birth parents were "low class" and "trashy". Tim held a grudge against his birth mother because he felt that she had thrown him away.
Tim later got married and had a son of his own. In the summer of 1976, while Tim was on the staff of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, he received a call from a woman claiming to be his birth mother. She told him that he had a brother, that his birth family was in San Jose, and that she was sorry for what she had done to him. Tim vented out his anger on her; when she asked if she could see him and her grandson, he refused. He even threatened to take a restraining order out on her if she came near them.
When he told Helen about the phone call, she became hysterical, insisting that Tim not search for her. Six years later, in 1983, Helen passed away. Tim later divorced and his son moved in with his ex-wife. During this time, he began to realize the importance of family. He thought about giving his birth mother a second chance. In 1986, Tim married his second wife Denise.
In 1990, Tim and Denise decided to search for his mother through adoption records in St. Louis. When talking to a lawyer who handled adoption records, she told them that she could not let him see the records. However, she felt sympathy for Tim, and gave him some clues. She told him that Tim's birth mother was from San Jose and was a relative of his adoptive mother Helen. She purposely left the adoption papers on her desk and then left the room for a few minutes.
Tim and Denise looked at the papers and were shocked to discover that everything Helen had told him was a lie. Tim had not been cruelly abandoned by his birth mother. In fact, Tim's birth mother was Helen's own niece, Muriel Carroll. She had only given him up because she was unable to take care of his medical problems. He also learned that Muriel was just eighteen when he was born and that Tim's father was in the Army and also unable to take care of him. Tim's birth parents gave him to Helen and decided to stay out of his life. Tim is now desperate to find his birth mother in hopes of apologizing to her and reuniting with her.
Extra Notes: This segment was featured as part of the May 17, 1996 episode.

Muriel and Tim reunited

Results: Solved. On the night of the broadcast, Scottsdale private investigator Alice Syman contacted Tim and volunteered to help him in his search for his mother. Within a week, Alice called Tim to tell him that she had found his mother, Muriel Gartner, and that she was thrilled to hear from him. In June of 1996, Tim and his son Adam were reunited with Muriel, along with Tim's siblings and several other relatives.