SUMMERVILLE, S.C. — The Hall family is mostly boys, so Jeff and Kayla Hall turned to Facebook to start the process of adopting a little girl.
Adoption has worked twice for them; their two youngest come from open adoptions.
So when a woman messaged their adoption Facebook page, they thought their dreams of having a daughter were coming true.
“The message just said ‘Are you still looking for a baby?,’ said Kayla. “From that second until a couple of weeks ago, we were in constant contact, whether it was text, Facebook messages, Skype — until we actually invited her to come down to see us.”
The supposed birth mom was from Ohio.
The Halls said they quickly formed a deep bond with her, inviting her to their home in Summerville. They said she definitely looked pregnant.
“She would call the boys ‘Hey, she’s kicking come feel her!’ So McCoy, our youngest, spent an hour watching a movie, head on tummy, hand on the front, feeling baby,” said Kayla.
Her husband, Jeff Hall, said the boys “idolized” the woman.
Then, at the end of the birth mother’s term, the Halls received a dreadful call.
“She just said ‘I’m at the hospital,'” recalled Kayla. “She’s crying and she says ‘I lost her, we lost her, Kayla — there’s no heartbeat.'”
The baby, who they had named Livvy, was stillborn. The Halls were devastated.
“She was sending me pictures of where they were going to bury the baby,” said Kayla Hall. “She even offered to send me a lock of her hair.”
The Halls said the woman even sent a photo of the stillborn child.
“Not thinking logically, but thinking emotionally, I sent the picture to a couple of our friends,” Kayla Hall said. She said her friends immediately noticed something was not right about the photo.
“Everybody was like ‘The baby seems alive,'” said Jeff.
Suspicious, but hopeful they had not been scammed, the Halls called the foundation the woman said took the picture.
The photography studio is called “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” and is based in Colorado. The woman claimed a volunteer from Ohio took the photo on behalf of the organization, which takes photos of stillborn babies upon request by family members.
“Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep doesn’t have a record of photographs being taken in that area of the country at that time frame,” said Gina Harris, Executive Director of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. “We did not take photographs of this particular baby.”
Once they realized she had been lying, the Halls confronted the woman by phone.
They said after she danced around the issue for a few minutes, she finally confessed: She had never been pregnant, and had been wearing a fake belly when she came to visit.
“I felt sad for our family that she lied on us, tricked us,” said the Halls’ oldest son, Cru, 8.
The Halls said they never gave the scammer a dime during the whole process, and that she admitted she just wanted to be close to their family after enduring years of abuse and loneliness.
“It was like she wanted to be adopted,” said Kayla.
Greenville adoption attorney Ray Godwin told FOX Carolina scams like this are common — but a scam with no financial motive is rare and difficult to prosecute.
“As far as any charges of fraud, I think a magistrate or a criminal prosecutor would be hard-pressed to bring charges, unfortunately,” said Godwin.
Another family in Ohio claimed the same woman scammed them; and until they heard Kayla and Jeff’s story, they just thought she had delivered a stillborn baby.
Six months later, they said they now know it was all a lie.
“When we got word of Kayla and Jeff’s story it actually made me sick to my stomach because it was our story identically,” a woman in Ohio told FOX Carolina over the phone.
The family did not want to be identified.
The Halls said they just want to warn other adoptive parents that scammers are out there. The worst part, the Halls said, is the confusion this web of lies caused their children.
“I’m not gonna let her do this again,” said Kayla. “I told her ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned — but hell hath no fury like a momma scorned.'”
The Halls said they do not know if they will sue the woman for emotional damages, but they said they hope she can get the professional help she needs.