Allegedly Offered Baby to 3 Couples : Extradition Set in Adoption Case

Times Staff Writer

A couple who offered their then-unborn child for adoption to three California couples are scheduled to be extradited today to Los Angeles from Arizona, the Los Angeles city attorney's office said Monday.

Ronald Bruce McElroy, 31, and his common-law wife, Sue Ellen Mitchell, 27, each face three counts of grand theft and two counts of failing to follow through with an adoption stemming from their allegedly having taken almost $5,000 in cash and living expenses, including $2,600 from an Arleta couple.

The grand theft misdemeanors each carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail; the adoption charges carry six-month maximum terms.

McElroy and Mitchell were arrested for hitchhiking July 13 in Kingman, Ariz., and have since been held on outstanding arrest warrants filed by the Los Angeles city attorney's office in December.

City Atty. James K. Hahn said extradition proceedings on misdemeanor charges are rare but allegations of "preying on emotionally vulnerable childless couples reached the level of abhorrence to justify it."

Children Not With Couple

In addition, said Deputy City Atty. Sue L. Frauens, who is prosecuting the case, the office "is extremely interested in finding out . . . what happened to the child," which was due in December. When arrested, McElroy and Mitchell, whose hometowns are Monroe, Ga., and Tomah, Wis., respectively, did not have the infant or their 2-year-old son with them.

Frauens said that, in early October, McElroy and Mitchell contacted couples in Arleta, San Diego and West Los Angeles, each of whom had advertised in out-of-state newspapers for children to adopt. The San Diego couple gave $1,639 in assistance to the suspects while the Arleta couple gave them more than $2,680 in cash and living expenses, authorities said.

Authorities were notified of the alleged scam after an attorney representing one of the couples became suspicious when she learned that McElroy and Mitchell had also contacted the West Los Angeles couple--also clients of hers--about adopting the same baby.

Frauens said couples can legally pay maternity-connected medical and living expenses as an act of charity in hopes of adopting the child. But it is illegal, she said, for a pregnant woman to accept expenses with no intent of completing the adoption.

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