I Found My Long-Lost Brother

By Stephanie Cook, as told to Christina Goyanes

Read about a woman who reunited with the sibling she never forgot. Photo by Rob Howard; hair and makeup by Shelley Illmense.

Motherly Memories

I was at work last January and did what I often do when I have a free moment: I Googled my little brother. I'd been searching for him for more than a decade, so when I typed in "Thomas adopted November 1990, Salt Lake City," I didn't expect to find anything.

I hadn't seen Thomas since he was 4 days old and I was 1 year, but I always felt he was a part of me. When she was pregnant, my mom, Bobbi Ann Campbell, arranged for an open adoption with a family who could give him more than she could-she was single, and times were really hard.

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Our mother loved him so much! She saved his tiny baby booties and exchanged letters and photos with his family for the first years of his life. Everything was handled through the adoption agency, so my mom never knew the last name of the family who adopted Thomas.

Then, in 1994, when I was 5 and Thomas was 4, our mother vanished. It was two days after Christmas, and she dropped me off at a friend's while she went to pick up her paycheck and go to the grocery store. She never came back. Police couldn't find a trace of her. Her car was found illegally parked in a nearby neighborhood a year later. The laundry she'd done the morning she left and $10 my great-grandmother had given her were still inside.

My great-grandparents raised me in a wonderful home near Salt Lake City that was full of memories of my mom. We didn't know what happened to her, but my brother was out there. I needed to find him.

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Fragmented Family

My mom never revealed who Thomas's dad was and the adoption agency couldn't disclose anything about my brother, so I had very little to go on. I knew his first name, that he was born in November 1990, and I'd seen a childhood photo of him with Seattle written on the back. When I was in high school, I'd spend hours searching Facebook and adoption websites for a boy named Thomas in Seattle. As soon as I was old enough, I registered with the Utah adoption registry. Nothing.

But then that night at work, up popped an article in our local paper about a Thomas Linton who was an incredible athlete and did a lot of work for his community. It also mentioned that he hoped to find his birth mother, Bobbi, although the article spelled it Bobbie. I knew it was him! I could barely breathe-I almost blacked out. I slammed both of my hands on the desk and just started to cry. My boss came over and asked what was wrong. "I found my brother!" I cried, then ran out to call my great-grandmother and give her the news.

By the time I got back to my desk, my amazing coworkers had found a phone number for him, and without thinking, I dialed. A man I assumed was Thomas's father answered. I blurted out that I thought I was his son's biological sister. There was a pause. "What happened to Bobbi?" my brother's dad, Kent Linton,


The Lost Years

My heart sank. They never knew she was missing! It broke my heart to realize they thought my mom had just abandoned Thomas. I explained that Bobbi hadn't-that she never would have-and told them what little I knew about my mom's disappearance 18 years earlier. Kent and Thomas's mom, Helen, were shocked, of course. But I was glad I could let them know how much Bobbi loved their son.

Incredibly, the Lintons lived in my area, and Helen invited me to lunch the next day and told me about my brother: He was in the Alabama National Guard stationed near Selma; he had a sister, Elizabeth, who was also adopted; and he hadn't even known he had a biological sister. He had gone to school just a block from my house! Thomas had been writing letters to our mom ever since he was 6, leaving them at the adoption agency, as my mother had before she vanished. He included an article in one of his letters about how his sunflower had won first prize at the local fair. Even though she never replied, he wanted her to be proud of him.

Just as we were sitting down to eat, Helen's phone rang. She looked down at it, smiled at me and asked, "Do you want to speak with your little brother?" I grabbed for the phone, but the line went dead. Later I learned that Thomas, whose car was in the shop, ran two miles into town to get a new charger and ran the two miles back to plug in his phone so we could talk. But the signal was spotty so we resorted to texting.

And that's what we did constantly for the next two months, learning all we could about each other. He is as big a video game nut as I am, and we have the same sarcastic sense of humor. It's as if we have known each other for years and years.

Together At Last

I finally met Thomas in March, when he came home for a long weekend. My husband and the Lintons and I met him at the airport, me with a huge sign that said "Little brother? Big sister" with an arrow pointing to me. I'd never been so nervous in my life-I was practically hyperventilating. Finally the passengers disembarked and Helen said, "Look, there he is!" He gave me beautiful red roses and we hugged and hugged. Thomas is a tough guy, but he was beaming. I was crying and smiling so hard my face hurt!

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That weekend, Thomas gave the detectives working on our mother's case his DNA, in the event they find someone who might be Bobbi. It means so much to me to have a partner in my search. And it was just so cool and weird and wonderful to look at him in person. He is a connection to my mother, a missing piece of my puzzle. He even has her eyes. He teases me like any little brother teases his big sister-telling me my laces are untied and I look down every single time, even when I'm not wearing laces! I wouldn't give that up for the entire world.

Every year since I was a kid, my family, friends and I have held a ceremony in honor of Bobbi. We attach notes for her to balloons and release them to the heavens. In March, Thomas and his family came, too. Helen handed out roses, and Kent spoke about how glad they were that Bobbi had given them their wonderful son. Now that Thomas and I have found each other, we feel closer to figuring out what happened to our mother. One thing's for sure: We'll never give up looking, not ever.

If you have information about Bobbi's case,
please call Unified Police Department detective Todd Park at 801-743-5850 or submit an anonymous tip online at http://updsl.net/forms/coldcase.cfm.

Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.

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