By Grayson Kamm
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- A couple paid a First Coast woman to have their child because they couldn't conceive on their own. Now, they say she won't give them the baby.
It's a birth battle that stretches across Florida. The couple that wants to bring this baby to their home says it's fraud, extortion, but -- most of all -- it's heartbreaking.
In a home near Orlando sits a baby's bedroom, trimmed out with a Tinkerbell theme. It was all lovingly built by the Lamitina family for their new baby girl, Rochelle Amber.
But that baby may never lay its head in this crib.
"My biggest fear is that we may not be able to bring her home. That's what's so hard," said Gwyn Lamitina, as tears rolled down her cheeks.
The Lamitinas say they had a great experience having a surrogate mom give birth to their two-year-old son TJ, so they were thrilled to try it again. Through a website, they found and hired a surrogate mother from Jacksonville.
But they say this fairy tale turned foul.
"I just kinda hope -- I pray everything will work out all right," said a tearful Tom Lamitina.
Last year, the couple says it signed a "surrogacy contract" with the Jacksonville woman. But they say since they trusted her, they never checked to see if she signed the document.
Then, two months into the pregnancy, the family says their surrogate started asking strange questions. "Personal questions, like how much money I made doing this, doing that. And then how much money I made at the end of the year," Tom remembered. "My first surrogate never asked me how much money I made."
And then, a letter arrived from the surrogate mother's lawyer.
It says this case is now a "child support issue."
"We didn't think anybody would be that low to use a child as a way to scam people out of money. That's pretty -- I mean -- I just didn't think anybody would be that low," Tom said.
We went to the mother's home in Argyle Forest looking for answers. As we did, a woman sped away. In the back of her minivan was what looked like the handle of a baby's car seat.
At the doorstep, a hand reached out from inside the house and stuck a sign on the front door. It said "No comment," and suggested we contact the surrogate mother's attorney.
So we did.
The surrogate's lawyer, Kelly Hampton, declined an on-camera interview, but said over the phone, "Under the laws of the State of Florida, surrogacy is like adoption. The surrogate mom has the option to keep the baby."
We asked, "Is she asking for child support?" The attorney said, "I'm not going to answer that."
Both sides agreed to a DNA test. A document provided to First Coast News by the Lamitinas showed the test was performed by a company on the First Coast and that the test determined a 99.9999 percent probability that Tom Lamitina is the baby's father.
Tom says the surrogate did cash their $1,500 deposit check.
But still, the couple says the surrogate, who provided the egg, never signed that contract. To them, the motive's clear.
"Fraud. Very fraudulent," Gwyn said. "It's almost like extortion... I have the baby, and you have to do what I want."
For now, like their hearts, the baby's room is empty.
"I have been praying a lot and I've got a lot of people praying for me. It's gonna be all right," Tom said.
The Lamitinas' attorney says he plans to go to court soon, filing a suit to give the family full custody of the baby.
First Coast News