Channel 6 Weekend Sports Anchor Jessica Morrey is searching for the birth mother who gave her up for adoption when she was born. Jessica has lived a great life. And, she's thankful for her adoptive family. But, she's always wondered about things as simple as her family's medical history -- things only her biological family would know. So, she teamed up with Channel 6 News Reporter Stephen Adams to find the family she's never known.
From Illinois to Texas: The Early Years
Jessica Morrey was born inside Grant Hospital in Chicago at 1:38 a.m. on Monday, April 16, 1990.
She was adopted by Tim and Susan Morrey, loving parents whose two previous adoption attempts had fallen through. They lived 30 miles northwest of Chicago in the small village of Sleepy Hollow, Illinois.
In 1997, they moved to Flower Mound, located north of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Shortly after, Susan was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer. She died in 2004.
The death pushed Jessica and her dad together and helped spur her love of sports.
"I’m really close with my dad or, as many of my friends call him, Papa Morrey," Jessica said. "We really grew a lot closer after my adoptive mom passed away when I was a teenager. And, my dad and I started watching football together. And, I can remember sitting back at a sports bar when I was younger, and he’s breaking out the salt and pepper shakers and the ketchup bottle and teaching me – setting up the offenses and defenses and teaching me all that. And, I loved that."
Jessica attended Flower Mound High School and later studied Sports Media Broadcasting at Oklahoma State University. She was a weekend sports anchor and sports reporter at KTEN-TV in Denison before joining KCEN-TV in Central Texas in June 2015.
“I really hope this search of hers ends up being emotionally great for her," said Tim, Jessica's adoptive dad, who supports the search.
The Adoption Attorney
The Curious Case of Lawrence M. Raphael
The adoption attorney who handled Jessica's case was a man named Lawrence Raphael. At the time, his office was located on West Washington Street in Chicago.
Raphael has since died. But, during his life, he became famous for his prominent advertisements -- encouraging pregnant women to consider giving their children up for adoption.
At the time of Jessica's adoption, Raphael gave her adoptive parents a substantial amount of information about her biological family. But, that information has been difficult to verify.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Raphael was disbarred by the Supreme Court in 1997 for misconduct involving his adoption practice. The disbarment and challenges in confirming aspects of Jessica's biological family story have left us unsure about the accuracy of the information Raphael and, by extension, Cook County, Illinois provided to her adoptive parents.
Adoption Attorney Lawrence Raphael
The Information We Thought We Knew
Jessica's Possible Background Story
Cook County's office of Adoption and Family Supportive Services provided a form full of information about the woman Raphael said was Jessica's birth mother. He, and by extension the office, said her name was Virginia Martinez -- a 23-year-old divorced Catholic.
According to the county and Raphael, Martinez was 4-foot-11 at the time and weighed 115 lbs. She had a fair complexion, green eyes and dark, brown hair. She was listed as being Mexican and Italian. And, the form said her birth date was April 9, 1967.
Martinez was allegedly a high school graduate with two years of music school. She was trained to play classical guitar and cello, and she and her 24-year-old brother played in a quartet, according to Raphael.
Despite her musical talent, Martinez was working as a waitress at the time, the county said. Jessica's adoptive parents were told Martinez worked at a bakery near the corner of Fullerton Parkway and Lakeview Avenue in Chicago.
Martinez's mother, Jessica's biological grandmother, was 55 years old at the time, the county said. She was also divorced. The story goes: she was a college graduate and fiction writer, who lived in Pennsylvania at the time.
Martinez's father was a 74-year-old college graduate and retired businessman who lived in Mexico at the time of Jessica's birth.
Martinez apparently had five older brothers, including that 24-year-old one from the quartet. At the time, the county said one was a 31-year-old beautician, another was a 29-year-old construction worker, a third was a 27-year-old college student, another was an oil painter and the one in the quartet was a commercial artist.
Martinez was listed as being allergic to strawberries and mushrooms. She had a 3-year-old son in preschool, the county said. According to the story told to Jessica's adoptive parents, Martinez had Jessica with a separate man from the father of her 3-year-old son. But, in order to rekindle the relationship with the other dad, she decided to give Jessica up for adoption, according to the adoption lawyer.
That means Jessica might have a half-brother out there somewhere.
The Search for Answers
Our Hunt for Jessica's Biological Mother
We began our search for Virginia Martinez in January 2018.
Early on, we located a woman living in Cook County, Illinois, whose birth date matched Martinez's, according to public records. But, when we called the listed phone number, a woman who identified herself as Virginia said we had the wrong person. She sounded too young, and she seemed genuinely confused. We had a pleasant conversation, and nothing about that talk caused us to doubt her claim.
“Doesn’t surprise me because a lot of this stuff is old data, and most people don’t keep their cell phone number public," private investigator Steve Russo said when we asked him about the coincidence.
We ended up hiring Russo to help with our search. He has been a law enforcement officer in Texas for the last 16 years. He also runs Watchful Eye Investigations, a respected PI firm with 10 private detectives.
"We've located people with just a first and last name and an old cell phone number," Russo said.
As of Feb. 4, Russo was still working to find Martinez.
During our search, we found a death notice printed in the Chicago Tribune on Sept. 23, 2007. The deceased individual was a 20-year-old young man, whose mom was also named Virginia Martinez. We're unsure if that person was Jessica's half-brother. But, his age in 2007 would have made him the right age to be Jessica's long lost half-sibling.
Private Investigator Steve Russo recently joined the search for Jessica's birth mom.
Preparing for Jessica's Journey
As we searched for Jessica's biological mother, we decided to consult a medical professional about the emotional toll such a journey could have.
Dr. Louis Gamino is a Temple-based psychologist at Baylor Scott and White. He has been practicing psychology since 1980.
“Whenever you start down a path like this having decided you’re going to make a search for the birth parent, you don’t know what the outcome is going to be," Dr. Gamino warned. "You hope you find the person, and, of course, you’re hoping for a happy ending. But, there are no guarantees.”
He explained how it was not uncommon for women around Jessica's age to begin seeking out their biological families when they are around the age where their bodies are ready to have families of their own.
“In the case you’re talking about of basically two moms along the way have been lost, I think that can accelerate it, maybe intensify the urge to want to search and find," Dr. Gamino said.
For her part, Jessica has intentionally tried not to get her hopes up.
“I’ve tried to keep my expectations from being too high or too low," Jessica said.
Dr. Gamino also offered a strong recommendation to be considered if and when we find Jessica's mom. He said it would be good to have a third-party individual approach Virginia before we tried to do so. He said Virginia might be more comfortable hearing such big news through an outside individual first. And, if she did not want to meet Jessica, then it might hurt less if that rejection came to Jessica through an intermediary.
Dr. Louis Gamino -- Psychologist at Baylor Scott & White Health
A Grateful Outlook
No Matter What Happens, Jessica Will Be OK
Last week, Jessica sent off a DNA sample to the private genetic testing company 23andMe.
We really don't know if Virginia is alive or dead. And, we definitely don't know about that half-brother who may not be alive.
And, if any members of Jessica's biological family are alive, we don't know if they will want to meet her. But, Jessica said she was alright with that.
“Positive or negative, she still did the most unselfish thing that anyone can do by giving a child up for adoption," Jessica said of Virginia. "So, no matter what the situation is, I’ll always be grateful and thankful for her.”
No matter what happens, Jessica will sleep well knowing she -- at least -- tried to find her birth family.
Jessica and her adoptive dad pose for a photo.
How You Can Help
Join Our Search
Does any of the information in this story ring a bell? Do you know Virginia Martinez?