Intense Family Drama

May 27, 2013
When America’s Next Top Model contestant Jael last appeared on the show, she was addicted to drugs, and her life was spiraling out of control. After one of the most explosive and unpredictable interventions in Dr. Phil history, Jael reluctantly agreed to seek treatment. Six months have passed — how is Jael now? Then, 41 years ago, Karin and Tommy placed their son for adoption. Now, they say finding him is a matter of life and death. They contacted professional locator Troy Dunn to help with the search. Is he able to locate him? And, Tony says 15 years ago, his girlfriend left with their 3-year-old son, Mitch, and he’s been searching for him ever since. Seven months ago, Tony was contacted by police and informed that 18-year-old Mitch was found wandering the streets of Los Angeles alone, emaciated and confused, after allegedly being held captive by his mother and stepfather. Where is Mitch now? And, why does Tony say he still hasn’t been able to see his son?








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Karin and TommyTroy DunnDave, Karin and Tommy's sonJael, beforeJael's interventionJael, nowLarry and Lisa, Jael's parentsBen Levenson, Origins Recovery CentersBrandon and Debbie, VIP RecoveryTonyRandy Kessler, Tony's attorneyDr. Frank Lawlis, chairman of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board

A Race against Time to Find Their Son

Forty-one years ago, Karin and Tommy were high school sweethearts. When Karin became pregnant after high school, the couple decided to place their son for adoption, hoping he would have a better life. Now, they say finding their only child is a matter of life and death, so they contacted professional locator Troy Dunn to help with their search.

Karin reads an excerpt from a letter she wrote to the son she's searching for. "Tommy and I broke up, but when we realized that we were still in love, we decided to get married. We tried to have another baby. I ended up with a tubal pregnancy and lost the ability to have children. I have always felt that it was my punishment for giving up a perfectly healthy baby for adoption. We both wanted you to know that you were not given up because you weren’t loved," she says. "We have never stopped thinking about you."

Tommy adds, "Your mother and I have looked for you for a long, long time, and we’d really like to know you."

Troy says he was inspired by Karin and Tommy’s letter, because it’s so rare that people who have a baby and break up and then get back together. “I was very moved by their story,” he says. “That is unheard of.”

Karin explains why she has a sense of urgency to find her son. “I’ve been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that is in all my bones, and I cannot be cured,” she says, fighting back tears. “I have genetic cancer. My dad died of the same kind of cancer, and I just think he has a great opportunity to know that there is some testing that he can have that may eliminate the fact that he could get this awful disease.”

Dr. Phil tells Karin and Tommy that Troy was able to obtain some information about their son.


“He’s alive, and he’s here.”

Dave, Karin and Tommy's son, tells the couple that he had a great childhood. “I couldn’t have asked for much more,” he says. “My parents were always loving and providing.” Dave reveals that he has a 10-year-old son.

When asked if he has any questions for Karin and Tommy, he asks them why he was placed for adoption.

“The reasons that we gave you up for adoption, for us, were real at the time," Tommy says. "They were gut-wrenchingly real: What’s the future? We’re not ready, we don’t have any money — all those reasons seem, at this stage in my life and my experiences, trivial. They don’t seem important enough to give a human being to somebody else to take care of from that point on. We have felt guilt, shame. We just wanted you to know that we never quit thinking about you.”

Karin adds, “We looked for you for a long time.”


Karin shares her news with Dave. “There are different things that you need to know that can protect you, since I wasn’t able to protect you.”


When asked if he’d be willing to allow Karin and Tommy the privilege of meeting his 10-year-old son, he says yes.

Update
After the show, Tom emailed the Dr. Phil staff: We have seen our son several times since the show, and it’s been fantastic. We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter together. We are also getting to know our 11-year-old grandson, Braeden. What a joy he is in our lives. My wife, Karin, is still dealing with her stage 4 lung cancer, so we take one day at a time. She is so thankful for our new life with our son and grandson. It’s been good for her health issues. We just got word that David is moving closer to us, so we can spend more time together as a family. We will always be grateful. Sincerely, Tom and Karin


A Second Chance at Life

Dr. Phil’s intervention with America’s Next Top Model contestant Jael was one of the most explosive and unpredictable in his 11-year history. But after the drug-addicted 28-year-old ran from the studio, Dr. Phil tracked her down behind a dumpster, and convinced her to accept his offer of treatment. Six months have passed. How is Jael now?

Dr. Phil sits down with Jael’s parents, Larry and Lisa. Larry says without Dr. Phil’s help, he’s certain he would’ve lost his daughter. “I feel like I found a new family that has saved my daughter’s life, and I thank you,” he says.

“You’re welcome,” Dr. Phil says.

Mother and son intervention team from VIP Recovery Brandon and Debbie, who helped get Jael to Dr. Phil’s stage, say they were shocked at her condition when they met her, and feared her body was about to shut down. Still, they say they could tell that she really wanted help.

See the new Jael!

Jael shares her lowest point in her addiction. Then, she addresses her parents.

Jael has a message for other addicts: “I want other people who are suffering to know that they’re not alone. There is help. You can be whole again. You can be happier than you’ve ever imagined,” she says.

Waiting with Open Arms

When Mitch Comer was found at a Los Angeles bus station in September, 2012, the 18-year-old was just over 5 feet tall and weighed less than 90 pounds. After a criminal investigation, police said Mitch had been starved and abused for the last four years and allegedly held captive in a bedroom and bathroom by his mother and stepfather, Sheila and Paul Comer. It’s reported that the teen’s stepfather drove him from Georgia to Mississippi, dropped him off at a bus stop with $200 and sent him to Los Angeles, telling him to fend for himself. Paul Comer and Sheila Comer face child abuse and false imprisonment charges.

In an exclusive interview, Dr. Phil sits down with the man who claims to be Mitch’s biological father.

Tony explains how he spent 15 years searching for his son. And, why hasn’t he seen him yet?

Tony says he and Sheila were never married, but his name was on Mitch’s birth certificate. Still, he says there’s a legal process that he didn’t know he was supposed to take when Mitch was born to establish legitimization as a father. Without that, he has no parental rights.

Tony’s attorney, Randy Kessler, says to establish parental rights, they have to get Sheila’s cooperation, which they are trying to do. “The hard part is she’s in jail, and Mitch is now an adult, so does he have anything to say about it? The rights that Tony wants is just to be involved, just for the world to know that he’s the father, and for Mitch, at his own pace and own time and own way, to get to know him.”

Dr. Frank Lawlis, chairman of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board, flew to Georgia to meet with Mitch and formally evaluate him.

Dr. Lawlis shares what he learned about Tony’s son. “He has tremendous courage and tremendous fortitude.”

Paul and Sheila Comer pleaded guilty to cruelty to children and false imprisonment. They were each sentenced to 15 years in prison.