The Trute Story of a Child Called Cyntoia: Was Justice Served?
Ellenette Brown, who is black, had no clue 16-year-old Georgina Mitchell, who is white, was pregnant. How could you tell? In 1987, all the kids were wearing baggy football jerseys. Georgina's was certainly roomy enough to hide a swelling belly.
But there were a lot of things Ellenette probably didn't know about the young woman who befriended her son, John Harleston. Georgina had come to Clarksville to live with her sister. Her mother warned her she could come back home to Georgia on one condition: without the black baby growing in her belly. Georgina never went home.
Instead, she began hanging around Ellenette's house, a gathering spot for neighborhood teens. Ellenette, a trim woman with finely boned hands, was a substitute teacher at a nearby elementary school. Kids like Georgina were drawn to her. They could talk to her about things they could never broach with their own parents.
But Georgina didn't tell Ellenette about the baby she carried, or the fifths of liquor she drained most nights. Nor did she mention the money she made charging for sex, or her family's history of suicides and mental illness.
On Jan. 29, 1988, Ellenette received a call from John. Georgina, he said, was in the hospital. Was she injured? Ellenette wondered. Her worry shifted to disbelief when he told her the girl was a new mother. By the time Ellenette and John visited Georgina in her room, she'd named her baby daughter Cyntoia. There was no father present. He could have been one of several men, including John Harleston, Cyntoia says, but Georgina could never be certain. Mother and daughter vanished shortly thereafter.
When Georgina showed up six months later on Ellenette's doorstep, with Cyntoia in her arms, it was to ask Ellenette to look after her baby for a while. Ellenette had no idea where they'd been, but she found Cyntoia such a sweet child that she didn't mind. The days stretched into weeks, the weeks into months. Ellenette grew to love the baby girl, to treat her like a daughter.