By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
On the evening of December 6, Wendy Cracchiolo-Sheedy gave birth to a six-pound, 15-ounce baby girl, "who looks like an angel, teensy-tiny and perfect." She named the child Antoinette Catherine Sheedy.
It was a miracle of sorts, because just a year earlier, after a double miscarriage, several surgeries and expensive fertility treatments, Wendy and her husband, Tim Sheedy, weren't sure she could conceive an infant and carry it full term.
Last June, New Times reported on Cracchiolo-Sheedy's heart-breaking journey half-way across the world to adopt a Russian baby ("Wendy's Choice," June 2). She took part in an aborted pied-piper mission called "Project Russia" by its founder, an Ohio nanny named Rebecca Davis.
Davis had minor experience collecting charitable donations in the Columbus area; she also had a talent for dropping names and mobilizing the media to her benefit. And so she collected thousands of dollars in cash donations, and several tons of clothing, medical supplies, food, Bibles and toys to be distributed to pitiable Russian orphans. Davis also promised that 40 deserving families would be able to adopt Russian babies without going through the usual daunting red tape. More than 100 would-be parents signed up and paid Davis $2,000 apiece.
Though Davis went so far as to promise that the parents would meet with Boris Yeltsin himself, it was all in her mind. She hadn't gotten the proper clearances. Her checks written to pay for the group travel bounced. The humanitarian supplies never made it off the tarmac of a Columbus airport. Worst of all, when Project Russia got to Moscow December 6, 1992, there were no babies to be adopted--in fact, Russian authorities didn't even know Davis was coming.
Davis later claimed that the Russians had reneged on their promises to her. And though several of the parents complained to the Ohio attorney general, a spokesman for the AG claims, "There has been no public enforcement action taken against Project Russia or Rebecca Davis." The FBI is investigating the episode, and a spokesman says the U.S. attorney in Ohio will review the report.
Davis rather irately told New Times that she would not comment now or ever.
Cracchiolo-Sheedy took matters into her own hands starting when she was still in Russia with Davis's ill-fated entourage. When she realized that Davis was a fraud, she made some telephone calls and was introduced to a doctor who headed a children's hospital in Moscow. At the hospital, she fell in love with a tiny, giggling porcelain doll of an infant. She called the baby Andrina, after the doctor. That night she wrote in her journal, "She is beautiful, and one day I hope to adopt her. But for all practical purposes, the red tape is as thick as it can get here in Russia, and it will take a very large act of God to get her home."
In fact, Cracchiolo-Sheedy got two acts of God. While she was surfing the tidal wave of red tape, she discovered that she was pregnant. Then her doctor pronounced hers a high-risk pregnancy and told Cracchiolo-Sheedy that another trip to Russia to retrieve baby Andrina was out of the question.
Cracchiolo-Sheedy turned her contacts and her own little project Russia over to Melissa and Jamie Combs, an Alabama couple she'd met on the Moscow trip. Cracchiolo-Sheedy had cut a tentative deal with the Russian doctor--if she could find an ultrasound machine for the hospital, the doctor would talk about putting baby Andrina up for adoption. Cracchiolo-Sheedy, in fact, commandeered a used machine, sent it to the Combses and also gave them the name of the New York-based adoption broker that the doctor had recommended. On July 4, the Combses packed up the ultrasound machine and left for Moscow. "There was a lot of drama while we were there," Jamie Combs says. The ultrasound machine was not exactly what the doctor ordered and so there was some impromptu renegotiating. He would not reveal how much money he had to pay. "The going rate is $8,000 to $10,000," he says. "We did not have to pay that."
The Combses arrived in Moscow on a Monday, saw baby Andrina on Tuesday, confirmed their intent to adopt on Wednesday, did the paperwork on Thursday, took the child on Friday, then waited a week for a U.S. passport. They weren't sure the adoption was final until they were on the plane going home.
"We were told that if there were any problems at all, even after we got the child, and at any time until we left there, the adoption could be stopped," says Jamie Combs. "It unnerved me no end."
But they did make it back to their home in New Market, Alabama. They named the baby Megan Judith Ann. She's now 15 months old, learning to walk and talk.
Jamie Combs is in love. "Everybody said she looks just like me," he coos.