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'Burger King baby' finds the birth mom who abandoned her

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Just weeks after a plea for her birth mother to step forward blazed through media outlets across the globe, Katheryn Deprill stood just one room away from the woman who abandoned her as a newborn 27 years ago in a Burger King bathroom.

As she got ready to meet with her birth mother, Deprill entered the lawyer's conference room with a lifetime of questions.

Why did she leave me?

What does she look like?

But before the answers even started, Deprill got something else.

"It was pure shock to see it was actually her standing there," Deprill said. "The first thing I got was my hug that I wanted."

Deprill, now widely known as the Burger King baby, came face to face with her birth mother last week for the first time since Sept. 15, 1986, when her mother, then a scared teenager, left Deprill at the restaurant on South 4th Street in Allentown.

"I have literally not wiped the smile off my face," Deprill said the day after their meeting. "I never in a million years thought I'd find her."

Deprill's mother, who remained in the area and doesn't want to be identified, went to Allentown attorney John Waldron for advice on how to handle the situation on March 13 — 11 days after Deprill's plea to find her mother went viral online.

She posted a photo of herself holding a handwritten sign saying: "Looking for my birth mother. She gave birth to me September 15th, 1986. She abandoned me in the Burger King bathroom only hours old, Allentown, Pa. Please help me find her by sharing my post. Maybe she will see this. Thank you."

When Deprill was 12, her parents gave her a memory book filled with keepsakes such as hair from her first haircut and crafts she had made. It also contained a police officer's typewritten narrative of the Burger King baby investigation and newspaper clippings about the case.

Waldron arranged for the birth mother and daughter to meet at his office. Deprill showed up with her youngest child, 7-month-old Jackson, and her adoptive mother. Her birth mother arrived first with her husband.

"Everyone hugged," Waldron said. "It brought tears to your eyes."

Deprill was at most hours old when a worker and customer at the Burger King heard a baby crying and found the infant in the women's room, wrapped in a maroon shirt and lying atop a white plastic bag.

Why did she leave me?

Waldron said the mother told him she became pregnant after she was raped at age 16 by a stranger during a family vacation in a foreign country. Ashamed, she hid the pregnancy, he said. The mother said she gave birth in her bedroom at age 17 without her parents' knowledge and drove to Burger King to drop off the baby, knowing it would be crowded and someone would find the infant.

"She kissed the baby on the forehead and left," Waldron said. "She was a kid in high school. Back then, you couldn't just go to a hospital and drop the baby off, no questions asked. It wasn't, 'I don't want the child.' It was because of what happened.... Sometimes rape victims blame themselves even though they're not at fault."

What is my heritage?

Deprill had wondered what ethnicity she was since sixth grade, when a teacher asked students to prepare meals based on their ethnic heritage. Deprill wasn't sure what to prepare.

During their meeting, the mother told Deprill she's of Irish and German descent, and they discussed health issues.

Waldron said the mother, who came from a "good, middle-class" family, became filled with guilt and about six months ago began trying to find out what had become of her daughter. When she heard Deprill's pleas, it was "a no-brainer" to step forward, Waldron said.

"As time went on, it affected her," Waldron said. "It bothered her she wasn't part of [Deprill's] life."

Deprill says she's had a good life and isn't angry with her birth mother. Now an emergency medical technician, married with three boys and living South Whitehall Township, Deprill was raised in a loving home with three siblings. Her sister was also adopted.

What does she look like?

Deprill finally knows.

"I felt like I was looking at myself in the mirror," she said.

The mother and daughter have agreed to keep in touch.

"I know I want to get to know her, share pictures, gain a new friend," Deprill said. "We have 27 years of catching up to do."

kevin.amerman@mcall.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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