Fascinating True Stories From the Flip Side of History

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The Strange Kidnapping of Milly McGill – Podcast #30

This is a story that I stumbled across while reading some old newspapers last summer, and I don’t think it’s seen the light of day in a very, very long time. But I hope you do enjoy it. This is a story about every parent’s worst nightmare come true. It’s the kidnapping of someone’s baby. 

And it starts on January 9, 1945, where a young unknown woman shows up at the Fort Worth, Texas, home of the mother Velma McGill with a very generous gift of brand-new baby clothing that still had the tags on it. And of course, the mother, Velma McGill, invites this young woman in because she really was poor and could use the clothing and let her hold her three-week-old baby Mildred Louise. 

Now the young woman just thought Mildred, or Millie, was a beautiful, beautiful baby. So she asked if she could take the baby downstairs to show her mother who was waiting downstairs in the car. 

And this is where Velma McGill made a very, very serious error in judgment. 

And I am sure you know what is going to happen here. 

The lady, the unknown woman, took the baby downstairs and never returns. She drove off with little Milly. Immediately, the Fort Worth police were called, and they began an intense search for a woman, described as a 20-year-old attractive blonde. That’s basically all they had to go on. 

Luckily, young Milly was found abandoned at the Fort Worth Greyhound Station the very next afternoon. The abductors had left her in the care of a traveler’s aid attendant at the station. The kidnapper said she would be back after eating lunch but never returned. 

Mr. and Mrs. C. E. McGill hanging baby clothes and diapers on the line. University of Texas Arlington image.

Ten days later, detectives arrested a 19-year-old woman named Melba Branson in Laredo, TX on the charges of kidnapping Millie McGill.  They thought she was a blond-haired person, but it turns out she was a brunette. 

Melba immediately admitted that she had kidnapped the baby, but she was also quick to point out that was not her original intention. It turns out that she had been pregnant herself and had suffered a miscarriage following a fall at a USO swimming pool just ten days (about 1 and a half weeks) prior to the kidnapping. 

Now, for whatever reason, maybe he wasn’t home or whatever, she didn’t tell her husband who was a Lieutenant in the Army that she had lost her baby. 

So, Melba had already purchased all this clothing for her own child and decided to give it away to someone that was in great need of it. And that’s how she found Millie and her mother. At least that was the plan until she saw how cute you know the three-week-old infant was.  

Suddenly she decided to take the baby and run. She went downstairs and hopped in a cab. Her mother had not been waiting down there. She hopped in a cab and left the scene. 

Now Melba’s new plan was to pass the child off as her own to her unsuspecting husband and they would raise it as their own. 

She then hopped on a bus to Fort Worth, but along the way, she got cold feet and that is when she decided to leave the baby with the attendant at the bus station and just go home without young Millie. 

Mrs. Branson was eventually freed on a $10,000 bond, but she still faced trial on the kidnapping charges. If she was found guilty, she faced a sentence of five to twenty-five years in prison. And the mother Mrs. McGill, Millie’s mom, was adamant that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 

Now I know what you’re thinking at this point: Big deal, Steve. This is one of the worst stories you have ever done. You know, history is filled with stories of desperate wannabe mothers who kidnap someone else’s child and run off with them. But this story is about to take a strange turn and that is why I am telling it to you. 

The day before Melba Branson’s trial on February 18, 1945, it was revealed that Millie’s parents had filed for divorce and that her mother Velma was going to testify on the kidnapper’s behalf at the trial. But not only that, and this is the real kicker, she wanted Melba, the kidnapper, to be awarded the custody of her now two-month-old daughter Millie. 

Yes, you heard that correctly: The mom wanted to give her daughter Millie away to her kidnapper. 

Of course, Mr. McGill, the other half in this divorce had a totally different idea. Divorce was fine, but there was no way his daughter is going to be given away to her abductress. 

The trial began the next day, on February 19th, with the kidnapper Melba Branson entering the courtroom with eight-week-old Millie sleeping in her arms. Mr. McGill quickly walked over and blurted out, “Let me hold my baby” and then grab Millie and ran out of the courtroom.

Melba Branson carrying Milly McGill into court.
Melba Branson carrying Milly McGill into court. University of Texas Arlington image.

You see, he had intended to turn the baby over to his sister Annie Mae McGill and allow her to raise her. He was suddenly stopped out in the hallway by the assistant District Attorney. 

You see, the court had a different plan in mind. Since neither of the parents seemed to want Millie and the mother strangely wanted to award custody to her abductress, they turned her over to the care of the County juvenile authorities. In addition, they took away Mrs. Mcgill’s 18-month-old son Donald Ray Britton from a previous marriage. 

The District Attorney really wanted to make an example of Mrs. Branson as a warning to future kidnappers, but in the end, the jury acquitted her of all the charges. Not only that, but she didn’t get Millie. 

Thirty minutes after the trial ended, the McGills announced they had reconciled. They dropped their plans for divorce, and they wanted to try again, but there was no guarantee that the couple would get their two children back. The court still had them, and the District Attorney was determined to keep that from happening. 

A hearing on the matter took place on March 1st and the judge denied the State’s request that the two children be made a ward of the County, so the McGills did get their children back. 

But the bizarreness of this story was not over. The entire McGill family – Millie and all the others – moved in with Mr. and Mrs. O. H. Fincher, who just happened to be the parents of Melba Branson, the abductress. 

Useless? Useful? I’ll leave that for you to decide. 

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