In the days before legalized abortion, some pregnant women turned to bogus doctors to perform the procedure, and many died. In 1965, in Coral Gables, Florida, a 22-year-old medical technician named Judith Hyams learned she was pregnant. On September 14, she went for the operation and never returned. The name she gave for her pregnancy test was a false one, "B. Kenny," an indication that she may have been trying to keep her condition a secret. Judith's friend, Marilyn Jackson, never knew of her friend's pregnancy:
"Judy never said anything to me that she might have been pregnant. She called me, I guess the day that she was going to have the abortion, if that is what happened, to tell me that she was leaving work early and going shopping."
That day, Judith went to her bank and withdrew $300. She told her friends that she was going to buy a watch. Police believe that Judith used the money for an illegal abortion instead. Detective Sergeant Bob Robkin of the Coral Gables Police Department:
"We were able to determine that she contacted a close friend of hers who helped arrange an abortion through the suspect, Dr. George Hadju. And through that, a date and time and price were set for it. The last time she was seen, we feel that she was on her way to get this abortion."
George Hadju was a Hungarian immigrant who posed as a physician. Police say he operated an illegal abortion clinic in Coral Gables. Marilyn does not believe that Judith died having the procedure:
"A lot of people have said that she died having an abortion. Judy was a lab technician. She had a lot of medical knowledge. I find it hard to believe that she could've died that way. Surely she would have known. She was intelligent enough to know to go for help."
Wherever she had gone that day, Judith Hyams never came home. Three weeks later, a rental car registered in Judith's name was found 650 miles away in Atlanta, Georgia. On the back seat were traces of blood. According to Detective Sergeant Bob Robkin:
"Unfortunately, the car had been there two or three days before it was found. By the time we were able to conduct any crime scene work on it, the car had been handled by other police agencies. And by the time it got back to Dade County to be processed, whatever crime scene that existed was totally ruined."
A local resident had seen a man in his thirties parking the vehicle. He removed what appeared to be a duffle bag from the trunk, and then left the area. This man was never identified. Three months later, George Hadju was arrested for impersonating a physician.
Police suspected Hadju might know about Judith Hyams' disappearance from Coral Gables. However, George Hadju jumped bail and was never seen again.
Shortly after Hadju fled, the investigation into Judith's disappearance ground to a halt. And a quarter of a century passed. Then, a bizarre series of events caused the case to be re-opened. It began with a routine law enforcement seminar.
Coral Gables Police Captain Chuck Scherer lectured at a police academy near Omaha, Nebraska. When Scherer returned to Florida, he received a mysterious phone call. The caller claimed to be the host of a radio program in Omaha. He said he had received a phone call about the disappearance of Judith Hyams. But when Captain Scherer called the station the following day, the radio host said he had never heard of the Judith Hyams case and had not called Captain Scherer:
"I was confused. I didn't know what to think. Why would a 25-year-old case surface all of a sudden out of Omaha, Nebraska, when, in fact I've never been to Omaha, Nebraska prior to that visit. I had no knowledge about the case. I never mentioned the case the whole time we were out there for the simple reason that I really didn't know anything about it."
Two days later, Captain Scherer received another strange phone call. This time, the caller said that Judy Hyams was alive and living in Omaha:
"My gut feeling was that something was going on to bring this case back up 25 years later. And it was very possibly that Judy was in fact living in the Omaha area."
Then, a story about the Hyams case appeared in a local newspaper, and Captain Scherer received a third mysterious phone call, this one mentioning the fraudulent doctor, George Hadju:
"The third phone call I received was from a man that identified himself as an informant for the FBI. He refused to give me his name, but he said that he had just spent several weeks with Hadju over in Budapest, Hungary and gave me a phone number. I contacted Interpol, and they determined that the phone number he gave me indeed came back to the same name of the suspect at that time, the doctor that supposedly performed the abortion."
Police couldn't locate George Hadju in Hungary, but they felt it was highly unlikely that he was responsible for the phone calls. The only real evidence that Judith was alive came from the mysterious callers. Captain Scherer:
"The only possible scenario that I could see is that she didn't want the family to know about the supposed abortion at the time, and she just disappeared and in fact was missing for 25 years."
The calls gave Marilyn hope that her friend might still be alive:
"I believed that she was some place and that she could be found, or that she would come back, or that we'd know that she was all right. It's hard to believe that she would be dead. I can't understand if she was alive why she wouldn't contact somebody after all this time. After all, there are no more stigmas left. Why wouldn't she come back?"
Four days after this story was broadcast, an unsigned letter arrived at the Coral Gables Police Department. The typewritten note said that Judith Hyams died from complications during an illegal abortion and that her body was dumped in Biscayne Bay near Miami. Police feel the letter was legitimate, and have no explanation for the mysterious phone calls from Nebraska. Detective Sergeant Bob Robkin closed the case, but questions remain:
"We would like the author of the letter to come forward and to contact us at the Coral Gables Police Department. Because the statue of limitations expired on the case, there would be no criminal prosecution. We would also guarantee total confidentiality to the writer of the letter."