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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 believe that it has seen the light of day in a very, very long time. But I hope that you 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, when an unknown young 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. The mother, Velma McGill, invites this young woman in because she was poor and could use the clothing. She let the unknown woman hold her three-week-old baby Mildred Louise. 

The young woman thought that 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 returned. 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 was basically all they had to go on. 

Luckily, young Milly was found abandoned at the Fort Worth Greyhound Station the next afternoon. The abductress 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 19-year-old Melba Branson in Laredo, TX, and charged her with kidnapping Millie McGill.  While thought to be a blond-haired person, Melba was really 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 and had suffered a miscarriage following a fall at a USO swimming pool just ten days prior to the kidnapping. 

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

Since Melba had already purchased all the clothing for her own child, she decided to give it away to someone who 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 the three-week-old infant was.  

Suddenly, she decided to take the baby and run. Melba went downstairs, hopped in a cab, and left the scene. She had lied when she said that her mother waiting down there. 

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

After kidnapping the baby, she hopped on a bus to Fort Worth, but got cold feet along the way. So, she decided to leave the baby with the attendant at the bus station and go home without young Millie. 

Mrs. Branson was eventually freed on a $10,000 bond, but still faced trial on the kidnapping charges. If found guilty, Melba faced a sentence of five to twenty-five years in prison. Millie’s mother, Mrs. McGill, was adamant that Melba 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. 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. 

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. In addition, 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 of this divorce, had a totally different idea. Divorce was fine, but there was no way his daughter was 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.

The father 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. 

But the court had a different plan in mind. Since neither of the parents seemed to want Millie and the mother strangely wished 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 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 wished 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. 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 bizarre nature of this story was not over. The entire McGill family – Millie and all the others – moved in with Mr. and Mrs. O. H. Fincher They 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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