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3 accused of trading kids for bird, cash

Associated Press / February 27, 2009
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NEW ORLEANS - A Louisiana woman is accused of trading two young children in her care for a pet cockatoo and $175 cash from a couple who had been trying for years to have their own child, authorities said yesterday.

Donna Greenwell, 53, a long-haul trucker from Pitkin, is charged with aggravated kidnapping, along with would-be adoptive parents Paul J. Romero, 46, and Brandy Lynn Romero, 27, of Evangeline Parish.

"The Romeros had good intentions from what we see," said Keith Dupre, a detective with the Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office. "They really wanted to take care of the kids. The kids were well-dressed and seemed to be treated good by the Romero family."

The transaction for the 5-year-old boy and the 4-year-old girl was negotiated by phone after Greenwell spotted a flier at a livestock barn selling a cockatoo for $1,500 and called the Romeros on Feb. 18, Dupre said.

Although Paul Romero had three children from a previous marriage, Dupre said, he and Brandy had tried unsuccessfully for years to have a child together.

When they told that to Greenwell, she allegedly offered to hand over the boy and girl for about $2,000. When the Romeros said they couldn't meet the price, Dupre said, "Ms. Greenwell agreed to make an even trade: the bird for the kids."

Greenwell showed up with the children at the Romeros' home the next day and said she would also need $175 for an attorney to complete adoption paperwork, Dupre said.

Everything began to unravel last week when authorities received a phone tip.

Greenwell's relationship to the children was unclear. Dupre said the children's father, of Leesville, was being questioned and that authorities were looking for the mother, believed to be somewhere in Texas.

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