Two men aged 77, John William Carr III and Jackie Lee Spencer, are suing the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia, USA, claiming they were switched at birth by staff at St Joseph’s Hospital in Buckhannon (pictured) in August 1942 and they grew up in different families never knowing their real families.
According to the men, nearly 80 years ago they were sent home with each other’s parents, a mistake that was only discovered recently thanks to DNA testing.
Both men’s lawsuit filed last week in Monongalia County Circuit Court cite negligence and breach of duty by the hospital where they were born.
Both men said they would have died without knowing their true heritage until last year when DNA tests showed Carr and Spencer had no genetic matches with the families that raised them but they did match the other’s family.
According to the lawsuit, Carr, Spencer and their families have suffered a ‘lifetime of consequences’ from the switch and are seeking unspecified payment for damages incurred.
When the diocese was contcted by the Daily Mail, diocese spokesman Tim Bishop said the diocese does not comment on pending litigation.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Charles Crooks, said in an interview with Daily Mail on Tuesday that Spencer spent decades searching for the man listed on his birth certificate as his biological father, Shirley Spencer. According to Spencer , he was told the man abandoned his mother before he was born .
At age 11, Spencer’s mother handed him an old photo of the man she believed to be his biological father, and shared with him a few biographical details which he used to start his search.
After finding relatives of the man on an ancestry website, Spencertook a DNA test to see if he was related and discovered he was not related to the man.
An additional DNA test also showed he wasn’t related to any of the people he had grown up thinking were his family.
DNA tests carried out showed he was really related to Carr’s family and upon further inquiries he found that Carr had been born the same day at St. Joseph.
Spencer and his wife, Phyllis, contacted Carr, who agreed to take a DNA test that showed he was related to the people Spencer had believed were relatives.
‘The discovery was the resolution of a puzzle that Jack and Phyllis had worked on for decades,’ Crooks said. ‘They never dreamed that this was gonna be the answer.’
‘Many of the people Jack should have known his entire life are gone,’ according to the lawsuit. ‘He feels as though most of his family died all at once. He grieves for the loss of the life he was supposed to have, while reconciling those feeling with the love and gratitude he feels for the family he has known his whole life.’
Carr, meanwhile said he looks different from the family that raised him and always felt out of place.
‘Well, I never felt like I fit in here because my mother and dad had brown hair and brown eyes, and so do my brother and sister,’ Carr said in the lawsuit.
His attorney said that Carr’s father ‘frequently commented that John didn’t look like his son, and he wasn’t very kind about it.’
Carr left home at age 17 to join the Marine Corps. Now 77, he is married and has a stepson.
Crooks says until August 14, 2019, when Carr and Spencer got the DNA results, their families had never crossed paths, having lived on farms in different counties.
‘It was a strong mixture of emotions,’ Crooks said, adding that Carr was surprised at the impact this has had on him.
Spencer and Carr met face-to-face for the first time on their shared birthday last year.