Real Name: Unrevealed
Case: Lost Family
Location: Addison, Illinois
Date: January 25, 1972
Details: On the evening of January 25, 1972, the Addison Police Department received a call at around 11:30pm about an abandoned infant. She was a few days old and wrapped in a blanket. She was placed beneath a gazebo outside of Addison's village hall, which was located near the police station. Due to the cold temperatures, the police knew that they had to act quickly; when the first officer arrived at the scene, he discovered the baby beneath the gazebo. He and his wife took her to a local hospital.
Authorities determined that the baby had been delivered at home and that the anonymous caller was most likely her father. They believe that he had placed her there, and that he wanted to make sure that she would be found and cared for. Two months later, she was adopted by June and Donald Stiles, who named her Elizabeth.
As Elizabeth grew up, she felt as if she was a misfit in her own home. Schoolmates often made fun of her, calling her a "garbage pail kid". She often had dreams about her birth parents. In 1996, her adoptive mother passed away; two months later, while cleaning out the house with a friend, she found her adoption papers hidden in the back of the china cabinet. Although they did not contain any new revelations, she was overcome with a new desire to uncover her past. She decided to use the Internet to search for her birth parents.
In October 2000, Elizabeth sent e-mails to fifty AOL customers from Addison to get information about her birth family and abandonment. She learned from police chief Larry Stoll about her abandonment and how everyone wanted to adopt her. Now, she was able to convince him to reopen the investigation. Although no new leads were uncovered, he wants her birth parents to know that there would be no charges filed against them, as the statute of limitations has expired. Elizabeth, now married and with five children of her own, just wants to meet them and have them meet their five grandchildren.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the July 19, 2002 episode, along with that of The Parents of Kimberly Smith. It was later featured on CBS' 48 Hours Investigates: Family Secrets.
Similar ones include the The Hatbox Baby, the The Smoker Car Baby, and Miss Subways.
Results: Solved. In October of 2001, Elizabeth registered onto the website "Bighugs.com" which helps reunite families. Her forty-eight-year-old birth mother, Sher Althenhoff, registered onto it six months later. In April 2002, they were put in contact. Sher apologized for abandoning Elizabeth. She accepted her apology and learned that she has three half-sisters. Shockingly, she also learned that one of them, Jennifer, killed their stepfather, Robert Althenhoff, allegedly in self-defense.
One week later, Sher and her other daughters traveled to Elizabeth's home in Tennessee and they were all reunited. Elizabeth also was put in contact with her birth father and were also reunited with. She learned that Sher had gotten pregnant with her out of wedlock. Her birth parents married but hid the pregnancy out of shame. Her birth father confirmed that he abandoned her and also placed the call to the police to make sure she was found.
Elizabeth and Sher had another visit in May 2002. However, for unknown reasons, Sher later asked Elizabeth to cease contact with her. It is not known if they ever resumed contact.
- Elizabeth Bagwell on Unsolved Archive
- 28 years after she was abandoned, woman still haunted by questions (Page 1) (Page 2)
- Emotional reunion on 48 Hours
- Woman learns of killing in family
- Family secrets not quite ready for primetime
- Happy reunion turns bittersweet for abandoned daughter
- Reunion with mother bittersweet for daughter
- Daughter also found her father
- Abandoned baby story set to air
- Addison case on 48 Hours
- Family Secrets: Long Lost Daughter
- Scenes from domestic life