PENNSYLVANIA — Her story made headlines back in 1986: Katheryn Deprill, just hours old, was found on the bathroom floor of a Burger King in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
And now, 27 years later, the married mother of three is on a mission to find the woman who abandoned her so many years ago.
She’s not filled with hate or resentment. She simply wants to find her birth mother and give her a hug.
“I just want to say thank you for not throwing me away,” Deprill told HLN’s Nancy Grace Thursday night. “She did such a wonderful thing for me and left me in a warm, dry place. I would like to thank her because now I have three beautiful children and I had a wonderful life growing up.”
Her words brought Grace to tears.
“It’s just striking me right now how strong a child’s love is for their mother,” Grace said. “And now, you want to thank your mother for leaving you in a warm, dry place when she left you on the floor of a Burger King?”
The Morning Call newspaper based in Allentown detailed Deprill’s story Tuesday.
On September 15, 1986, a Burger King employee arrived at the restaurant around 5:30 a.m. A short time later, he heard a baby crying, but he assumed someone was changing a diaper inside the women’s bathroom.
Soon after, the man heard crying again. He asked a customer to check the women’s bathroom.
The customer, who also heard cries, opened the bathroom door and found a newborn baby lying on the floor. The baby was swaddled in a red sweater, lying on top of a white plastic bag.
She was taken to the Allentown General Hospital. Doctors said she was approximately 7 pounds, full term and in good health. Her umbilical cord was attached.
The restaurant employee who first heard the baby’s cries told police he saw a woman in her early 20s, with collar-length, frizzy, sandy brown hair. He said she was driving a blue 1970s car.
Despite an examination of the bathroom, interviews with witnesses, a search of the surrounding area and numerous tips, the mother was never found.
“I think she did a great job. She took care of me in the womb. I wasn’t addicted to any drugs or alcohol,” Deprill said. “The nurses and doctors at the hospital said I was very healthy and very well taken care of.”
“She must have loved me and loved me enough to realize maybe she was in a bad spot and couldn’t take care of me. That’s what I want people to realize. Yes, she might have not left me at a hospital, but you just have not walked a mile in her shoes. And until you do, you shouldn’t judge,” she added.
The case of the “Burger King Baby” made headlines.
Deprill was eventually discharged from the hospital and into a foster home. Her adoptive parents, Brenda and Carl Hollis, filled her childhood with unconditional love.
It was never a secret that Deprill had been adopted, but in the sixth grade, she finally learned the full story.
“I had to do a project on our heritage, and we had to bring in some food. And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know who my parents are; I don’t know what I am,’” she told Grace.
Her adoptive parents decided it was time. They shared with their daughter a memory book they compiled with keepsakes. The book also contained a police report about the “Burger King Baby” investigation and various newspaper clippings about the case.
“It was dropped on me,” Deprill said. “That I was known as the Burger King Baby.”
After years of self-loathing and self-doubt, Deprill said her marriage and the birth of her three sons made her come to terms with her past and helped her think back on her story as a blessing in disguise.
With the encouragement of her adoptive mother, Deprill decided it was time to begin the search for her birth mother, using Facebook as a starting point.
On Sunday, she posted a photo of herself on her Facebook page holding up a handwritten message that read:
“Looking for my birth mother. She gave birth to me September 15, 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.”
The photo has already been shared nearly 15,000 times by other users.
If she ever gets the chance to meet her birth mother, what does Deprill want to know?
“I would like to know why. What was so horrible that she chose to leave me there? I would like to thank her. To leave your child not knowing what’s going to happen to them. Leaving me in the bathroom and walking away, I just cannot even imagine,” she said.
“I’m hoping that she will let me hug her. That’s what I want.”
Grace said: “Mom, you’re out there somewhere. I hope you’re listening.”