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After an attempted suicide three years ago,
Jaidryon Platero, now 19,
was placed in a youth homeless shelter
by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department.
These Foster Kids Need Mental Health Care.
New Mexico Is Putting Them in Homeless Shelters.
by Ed Williams, Searchlight New Mexico,
with data analysis by Joel Jacobs, ProPublica,
photography by Kitra Cahana, special to ProPublica
Oct. 7, 5 a.m. ED
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Family > Family life, Parents, Children,
Siblings, Parenting, Raising children
Secret Daughter of Hollywood,
Dies at 76
November 30, 2011
The New York Times
By PAUL VITELLO
Her mother was Loretta Young. Her father was Clark Gable.
Yet Judy Lewis spent her first 19 months in hideaways and orphanages, and the
rest of her early life untangling a web of lies spun by a young mother hungry
for stardom but unwilling to end her unwed pregnancy.
Loretta Young’s deception was contrived to protect her budding movie career and
the box-office power of the matinee idol Gable, who was married to someone else
when they conceived their child in snowed-in Washington State. They were on
location, shooting the 1935 film “The Call of the Wild,” fictional lovers in
front of the camera and actual lovers outside its range.
Ms. Lewis, a former actress who died on Friday at the age of 76, was 31 before
she discerned the scope of the falsehoods that cast her, a daughter of Hollywood
royalty, into what she later described as a Cinderella-like childhood.
Confronted by Ms. Lewis, Young finally made a tearful confession in 1966 at her
sprawling home in Palm Springs, Calif.
Young was 22 and unmarried when she and Gable, 34 and married to Maria Langham,
had their brief affair. She spent most of her pregnancy in Europe to avoid
Hollywood gossip. Ms. Lewis was born on Nov. 6, 1935, in a rented house in
Venice, Calif. Soon she was turned over to a series of caretakers, including St.
Elizabeth’s Infants Hospital in San Francisco, so that Young could return to
When Ms. Lewis was 19 months old, her mother brought her back home and announced
through the gossip columnist Louella Parsons that she had adopted the child.
Ms. Lewis grew up in Los Angeles, cushioned in the luxury of her mother’s
movie-star lifestyle even as she endured what she later described as an
outsider’s isolation within her family and the teasing of children at school.
They teased her about her ears: they stuck out like Dumbo’s. Or, as Hollywood
rumors had it, they stuck out like Clark Gable’s. Ms. Lewis’s mother dressed her
in bonnets to hide them. When Ms. Lewis was 7 her ears were surgically altered
to make them less prominent.
Until Ms. Lewis, as an adult, confronted her years later, Young did not
acknowledge that Ms. Lewis was her biological daughter, or that Gable was Ms.
Lewis’s father. When Young married and had two children with Tom Lewis, a radio
producer, Judy took his name but remained the family’s “adopted” daughter.
And though conceding the story privately to her daughter — and later to the rest
of her family — Young remained mum publicly all her life, agreeing to
acknowledge the facts only in her authorized biography, “Forever Young,” and
only on the condition that it be published after her death. She died in 2000.
But Ms. Lewis revealed the story of her parentage in her own memoir, “Uncommon
Knowledge,” in 1994. She described feeling a powerful sense of alienation as a
child. “It was very difficult for me as a little girl not to be accepted or
acknowledged by my mother, who, to this day, will not publicly acknowledge that
I am her biological child,” she said in an interview that year.
After Ms. Lewis released the memoir, her mother refused to speak to her for
The lightning bolt that gave Ms. Lewis the first hint about her parentage came
during an identity crisis before her wedding day. Two weeks before her marriage
in 1958, Ms. Lewis told her fiancé, Tom Tinney, that she did not understand her
confusing relationship with her mother and that she did not know who her father
was. “I can’t marry you,” she said she told him. “I don’t know anything about
Mr. Tinney could offer little guidance about her mother, she wrote, but about
her father’s identity he was clear.
“It’s common knowledge, Judy,” he said. “Your father is Clark Gable.”
She had no inkling, she wrote.
In interviews after her book was published, Ms. Lewis was philosophical about
the secrecy in which she grew up. If Young and Gable had acknowledged her in
1935, she said, “both of them would have lost their careers.”
Much of Ms. Lewis’s account was painful to recall, she said. She quoted Young as
saying, “And why shouldn’t I be unhappy?,” explaining her decision to give
birth. “Wouldn’t you be if you were a movie star and the father of your child
was a movie star and you couldn’t have an abortion because it was a mortal sin?”
Young was a Roman Catholic.
After graduating from Marymount, a girls’ Catholic school, Ms. Lewis left Los
Angeles to pursue acting in New York. She was a regular on one soap opera, “The
Secret Storm,” from 1964 to 1971, and had featured parts on numerous others. She
appeared in several Broadway plays, produced television shows, and in her
mid-40s decided to return to school. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a
master’s degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University in Los Angeles,
and became a licensed family and child counselor in 1992.
Ms. Lewis, who was a clinical psychologist specializing in foster care and
marriage therapy, died of lymphoma at her home in Gladwyne, Pa., her daughter,
Maria Tinney Dagit, said.
Besides her daughter, Ms. Lewis is survived by two grandsons and her
half-brothers, Christopher and Peter Lewis. Her marriage to Mr. Tinney ended in
In a 2001 interview on CNN with Larry King, Ms. Lewis recalled speaking to her
mother about her early life.
“I was also asking her about being adopted,” she said, “as adopted children do.
They say, ‘Where are my ... ‘’ ”
Mr. King interjected, “ ‘Who’s my mother?’ ”
“Yes,” Ms. Lewis said. “ ‘Who’s my mother? Who’s my father?’ And she would
answer it very easily by saying, ‘I couldn’t love you any more than if you were
my own child,’ which, of course, didn’t answer the question, but it said, ‘Don’t
ask the question.’ ”
But at that point Ms. Lewis was wistful about her past. “Call of the Wild,” she
said, was one of her favorite movies. The love scenes between her parents, she
said, “show the love they feel for each other.”
Mr. King asked if she ever fantasized about the life she might have had if her
parents had married and brought her up.
“I would have liked them to have,” she replied. “But that is just my dream, you
know. Life is very strange. Doesn’t give us what we want.”
Judy Lewis, Secret Daughter of Hollywood,
Dies at 76,
Telling of Days on the Run
After Abducting Children
November 29, 2011
The New York Times
By SARAH MASLIN NIR
The week before they abducted their eight children from a
foster care center in Queens, Nephra and Shanel Payne stocked up at Costco on
supplies and dry goods, like diapers and infant formula for Nefertiti, their
11-month-old daughter, graham crackers and her favorite drink, pear juice. They
stashed family photos and important documents in a storage facility and crammed
a basketball and a football — essential for traveling with a Little League
team’s worth of boys — into their car.
They had just been told, they said, that New York City’s child welfare agency
was planning to put their children, who had been in foster care for nearly three
years, up for adoption rather than reuniting them with their parents.
“It’s either do something or let your kids get swallowed by a system that does
not have a heart,” Mr. Payne, 35, said. “To do nothing would have been more
hurtful, more reckless.”
The Paynes told their story during a nearly two-hour interview on Monday night,
five days after their release from jail. They sat side by side in the office of
Norman Steiner, the lawyer who represented them in their criminal case, their
pinky fingers intertwined.
It was a brazen act — two parents abducting their children from foster care in
broad daylight — and it set off an interstate manhunt and a rash of media
speculation on their whereabouts and on how they had succeeded at it. But to the
Paynes, that week on the run with their children packed first into a car and
then into a van was a respite of sorts — a time spent singing along to Michael
Jackson hits, tossing a football around and being a family.
Mr. Payne, a construction worker, and his wife, 28, a beautician, were arrested
on Sept. 26, seven days after they absconded with their children during a
supervised visit at the Forestdale child agency in Forest Hills. The police
found them on a roadside in Harrisburg, Pa., where they had just finished dinner
in their van.
They were sent to New York to face eight counts each of kidnapping — one per
child — among other charges. The kidnapping charges were eventually dismissed,
and the Paynes pleaded guilty in late October to second-degree custodial
interference, a misdemeanor for which they were each sentenced to 90 days in
jail and three years’ probation. On the day before Thanksgiving, they were
Child welfare advocates deplored the couple’s rash move, concerned for the
safety of the children. The children, seven boys and one girl, ages 11 months to
11 years, had been removed from the Paynes’ custody in March 2009 amid
allegations of abuse.
The Paynes said the Administration for Children’s Services had unfairly taken
custody of their children after one went to school with a bloodshot eye. It was
a result, they said, of a squabble among the brothers.
Child welfare officials declined to discuss the specifics of the case, citing
privacy rules. Still, they said, children are not typically removed from a home
because of a single issue. Agency workers must assess the children’s welfare,
and the decision to take custody must be approved in Family Court, the officials
The Paynes said that they were good parents and that they had religiously
attended parenting and anger management classes prescribed by officials. They
showed up at every child visit with platters of food, home-baked cakes and even
a juicer, they said, and they were devastated to hear that several of their boys
had been medicated for things like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
They were terrified, they said, when two of their children complained of not
being fed enough and showed up to visits with split lips and bruises. Agency
officials said those claims were never reported.
The Paynes said they learned in mid-September that Children’s Services had set a
goal of adoption for the children, and it was as if a switch had flipped.
Security at the Forestdale child agency, where the visits took place, was lax at
times, the Paynes said. (The center is reviewing security issues in light of the
abduction.) During their Sept. 19 visit, Ms. Payne said, she simply led the
children to the car waiting out back, and told them to be quick. “In my head I
was like, ‘Go, go, go, go,’ ” she said.
“It was like a relief; we just had no more pain,” her husband said. “Everything
we came to New York with, we’re leaving with.”
Willfully oblivious to the manhunt, they listened to music — not news — on the
radio and disassembled their cellphone. They headed toward South Carolina, where
they had lived before moving to the Bronx in 2007 and where their family still
had land. “Acres of land, produce growing out of the ground,” Mr. Payne said, a
smile reaching each side of his lean face. “It was going to be that freedom to
see our kids just running around — to be happy, to be safe — with their mother
His wife, whom he began dating after she wrote him a love letter when she was
16, continued his thought: “It would have been a dream come true, and for those
seven days that’s what it was like,” she said. At one point, she recalled, her
son Shalee, 6, awoke with a start. “He said: ‘I thought this was a dream. Thank
you so much for taking us,’ ” his mother said. “I know that what I did was right
because I heard it from my son.”
They got to South Carolina swiftly, stopping only to play catch and to eat at a
Chinese restaurant in Virginia, but when a reporter called a relative a few days
after they had arrived, they quickly left. They punched Harrisburg, where Mr.
Payne had once found work, into their GPS unit and headed there. Though Nephra,
the oldest son, had seen newspaper reports about the family, the parents somehow
still believed they would not be caught, they said. They had even started
planning to home-school their children.
They described the atmosphere in their van as “a party,” their last evening a
bizarre public idyll in light of the nationwide police pursuit. The boys
clambered onto a stage at a park in Harrisburg and showed off break-dancing
moves; Ms. Payne and the baby admired a cheerleading performance. They ate a
chicken dinner in the van, Nefertiti refusing to budge from her father’s chest.
Then, they said, around 10:30 p.m. came the sirens, the order to freeze, and the
barrel of a gun pointing at Mr. Payne. Nefertiti howled. Mr. Payne collapsed and
was hospitalized; he said he could barely move for several days.
“I just was empty, I just felt like I messed up, I felt like my world was over,”
he said. “All I could hear was my baby screaming.”
Police reports of the Paynes’ capture described the children as disheveled, and
there was speculation that they had slept in the cramped van. But the couple
said the family stayed in motels, paying in cash. And they adamantly denied any
Jail was a shock for the couple. Mr. Payne said he remembered feeling he had
done “something noble.”
Michael Fagan, the communications director for Children’s Services, said in a
statement: “We are glad that the children are safe and back in New York City.
After a thorough investigation and careful assessment of the children, they are
in the care of foster families, as they were before they were abducted by their
Both parents are forbidden to see their children or to speak to them on the
phone. On Dec. 15, they will return to Family Court to seek the right to see
Telling of Days on the Run After Abducting
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