WJBF EXTRA: The Search For Joey

Joey and Audrey Sidler, prior to their adoptions in 1965.

***UPDATE: Thanks to WJBF viewers, Audrey found Joey and they met for the first time in 50 years on Friday, August 7th.***

***CLICK HERE to watch the video: The Reunion- Audrey Finds Joey***

Augusta, GA —  She says she wants to find the “missing link” of her life.

Fifty years ago, Audrey Lee Sidler’s world was ripped apart:  without warning, she and her brother were put up for adoption… pulled away from each other on the courthouse steps.

And she’s been looking for him ever since.

Take a close look at this picture:

Joey and Audrey Sidler, prior to their adoptions in 1965.
Joey and Audrey Sidler, prior to their adoptions in 1965.

Could -you- be this boy, or do you know him? He’s 56 now.

Any memory you have of these little faces may unlock a clue that leads Audrey back to Joey, in this News Channel 6 Extra.

“Joey was born in 1958, September 3rd.”

Take a good look at this little boy:  he was Joseph Eugene Sidler then, living in France, a military family with his father Billy and step-mother Myra.

“Our father was a very abusive man, he had a drinking problem.”

Audrey Crook’s memories of her early childhood are painful ones (“There’s only one picture that I have with him in it”) … especially when she thinks about her little brother, Joey.

“I remember him getting locked up in the bedroom; I remember him getting sick when we lived in France and he broke a thermometer and my Daddy beat him because he broke the thermometer.”

The Sidlers’ marriage fell apart.

“Myra brought us back to the States.”

Back in Richmond County, Myra sent a letter to France asking Billy Sidler: “What did he want her to do with us, because we were not her children. He said, ‘Give them to the court.'”

sidler family
Step-mother Myra Sidler with Audrey & Joey’s father, Billy Eugene Sidler.

That’s exactly what Audrey’s step-mother did.

50 years later, Audrey still remembers being marched into a courtroom. She carries a folder with the paperwork, the documentation, of what happened; but she carries Myra’s painful, last words to her… in her heart.

“She took us to Richmond County Courthouse, Ms. Bee Hamilton, and, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t visualize coming down them steps, holding his little hand, and being told, ‘Audrey you go with that family, Joey you go with that family- we don’t love y’all no more.'”

Little children who had no idea their lives were being ripped apart; their sense of security yanked away with no warning. “But, the worst part of the story is, Joey and I were separated. (crying) Joey went in one direction and I went in an  other. And I remember laying over the backseat crying, ‘I want my brother!'”

Later, Audrey’s “new” father looked into adopting Joey, but discovered shocking news about the couple who took him from the courthouse on February 4, 1965:

“Their names were Earl and Betty Sikes, and they had given him back to the courts because they said something was wrong with him. He was a child! He was a child- he threw rocks, he took the little girls’ Barbie dolls and broke them- little boy things… and they gave him back.”

Nine weeks after the adoption, Joey was returned to the court… and there’s no trace of him after that.

By the late 1980’s, Audrey had found her birth father, her birth mother, a sister, and several half brothers and sisters. She was married now, and had a toddler, but she was still looking for Joey.

Jen: “Did having your own baby intensify your desire to find your birth family?”

Audrey: “Yes- and I hate to say this on TV…  but with what happened to me I didn’t want to be a mama. I was scared, I was scared I would do the same thing to my child that was done to me. And I would never want to do that to a child.”

20 years ago a local judge tried to help Audrey find out what happened to Joey. Was he placed in foster homes, in an orphanage?

“If a family may have gotten him and changed his name, I don’t know if he was sold, after the Sikes gave him back there’s nothing in there. April 13, 1965 is the last date that was filed on Joey’s records. I haven’t seen it, that’s just what the judge told me.”

And today, 50 years since their separation, Audrey is still looking for Joey.

This picture has been shared thousands of times on Facebook, but she has no leads. She hopes someone watching right now will recognize this little boy.

Jen: “If you could just see him right now. What would you say?”

Audrey: “That I love him and I have missed him. I need this closure.”

Audrey says her adoptive parents, Bill and Juanita Creed, were her “Mama and Daddy”–  and she grew up in a wonderful family. But, even with their love, and the love of her daughter and grandchildren, she feels like a piece of the puzzle is missing.

Joey will be 57 on September 3rd and Audrey’s prayer is that she can celebrate his birthday with him.

If you know someone who is looking for his birth family, whose adoption was handled by Bee Hamilton in the Richmond County court system, encourage them to contact us at jmontgomery@wjbf.com or producers@wjbf.com

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