The judge called the case a “made for television situation,” and he neatly summed up the stranger-than-fiction drama that had unfolded in Nueces County, Texas.
Two women–Mary Ann Saenz High and Cynthia Rector–were born on the same day, April 30, 1969, at Kleberg County Hospital. “Mary Ann was the offspring of Charles Wayne Rector and Linda Belle Walpole. Cynthia was the offspring of Fidel Barrera Saenz and Benilde Soliz,” a lawsuit by the two women states. “Tragically, according to the birth certificate, Mary Ann was identified as being born to Fidel Barrera Saenz and Benilde Soliz, and Cynthia was identified as being born to Charles Wayne Rector and Linda Belle Walpole.”
Mary Ann High grew up eating tamales and capirotada – a type of Mexican bread pudding. Cynthia Rector was raised in a non-Hispanic family. “Both Mary Ann and Cynthia grew up in very different circumstances, both
economically and culturally,” the lawsuit continues.
Switched at Birth: The Shock
In 2018, Mary Ann High and her husband submitted DNA samples to Ancestry.com out of curiosity. High was shocked when her report said her lineage wasn’t from Spain or Mexico as she expected, but consisted of mostly European DNA, primarily from England and Ireland. Thinking her DNA sample had been mistakenly identified, she tried again with another service, 23andMe. When those results were the same she had to accept that something was seriously wrong.
Digging into county records, she found that the only other girl born the same day as her at Kleberg County Hospital was Cynthia Rector. High contacted the TLC show “Long Lost Family” and through the show’s efforts, genetic findings confirmed that Rector’s sister was actually High’s biological sister. The information was stunning and upsetting to both High and Rector. Sadly, both sets of parents had passed before this discovery, so neither High or Rector could meet their true biological parents.
The women hired an attorney and are seeking at least $1 million each from the Christus Spohn Health System Corporation, which acquired Kleberg County Hospital in 1999. The suit claims the hospital was negligent by failing to have reasonable procedures to properly identify and discharge newborns.
“At the time and place in question, Defendant had a duty to correctly and securely identify each infant in the hospital and to ensure that discharge of each infant be with his or her parent or family,” the lawsuit states.
The women have each suffered emotionally and mentally, the suit contends, and will likely have to undergo intensive, life-long therapy. The suit also charges that High has experienced “economic loss in the past and future, including loss of opportunity.”
Though lawyers for the hospital argued that it “has no legal relationship to the alleged events” because it did not own the hospital at the time, the judge is allowing the case to move forward. Look for more on this saga in print…or as a TV movie.