A Florida woman who learned she had been switched at birth when she was still a
child is opening up about her tumultuous teenage years and how she had to live with a new identity
Kimberly Mays made national headlines in 1988 when it was revealed that she and another girl, Arlena Twigg, had been given to the wrong parents.
This was revealed after Arlena – who died of a genetic heart defect at 9-years-old – had a blood test which showed that Ernest and Regina Twigg were not her biological parents, and that it was Robert Mays and his late-wife Barbara who were her parents.
Over the course of the next 10 years Kimberly would move in with the Twiggs, divorce the Twiggs and move back in with Robert, run away multiple times and eventually marry her high school boyfriend and give birth to a son Devin.
In a 20/20 special titled ‘Switched at Birth or Stolen?’ which is due to air on Friday, Kimberly opens up 30 years after she discovered she was switched at birth.
Kimberly Mays (above) became the focus of national media attention as a teenager when it was revealed she had been switched at birth with a baby called Arlena Twigg
Arlena Twigg, (pictured), who died of a genetic heart defect at 9-years-old. A blood test which showed that Ernest and Regina Twigg were not her biological parents, and that it was Robert Mays and his late-wife Barbara who were her parents
In the interview she claims: ‘I am Kimberly Mays and I was switched at birth. How did I get switched and why?.’
Kimberly Mays also reveals previously unknown details about her tough childhood and negative impact of the switch.
She also tells of her emotional journey coming to terms with her new identity, including her mistakes and regrets along the way.
Arlena’s biological siblings also speak for the first time about Arlena’s childhood, how their grieving process was disrupted when Kimberly entered their lives and the status of their relationship with their biological sister.
Irisa Roylance, one of Arlena’s sisters, speaks of the moment she learned she had died, saying : ‘I remember watching the monitor and the heart rate just dropped and dropped and dropped until she was gone.
‘I felt like I had died with her and I laid my head on her chest and told her I was sorry that I couldn’t help her.’
Another sister, Gina Twigg, said upon learning of Arlena’s death: ‘I stayed at my best friend’s house and I remember my mom showed up and she told me that she passed away.
‘I couldn’t believe it, she wasn’t supposed to die, everybody said she would be okay.’
Kimberly was born on November 29, 1978 at Hardee Memorial Hospital in Wauchula, Florida. Three days later, on December 2, Arlena was born at the same hospital.
Kimberly was delivered quickly after her heart rate began to go down while her mother was in labor while the Twiggs were told they had given birth to a healthy baby girl.
Right as they were about to check-out of the hospital however, the Twiggs were told their daughter had a heart problem, something they had previously had experience with and which had caused the death of a previous child.
Arlena Twigg is pictured with Regina Twigg above, who later discovered Arlena was not her biological daughter. She claims she told a nurse at the time that the baby ‘looked different’ to her and her family
Arlena’s biological siblings Irisa and Gina, (left and right), speak for the first time about Arlena’s childhood, how their grieving process was disrupted when Kimberly entered their lives and the status of their relationship with their biological sister
Arlena’s heart began to fail just days after leaving the hospital, leading to problems with her lungs, but the newborn managed to survive and hold on for nine more years.
While undergoing a blood test in her childhood years the Twiggs learned that Arlena was not their daughter, but at the time they decided to focus on their daughter’s health, which was rapidly deteriorating as she got older.
She passed away in 1988 during open-heart surgery. Shortly after the Twiggs set out to find their lost child.
Arlena’s brother told 20/20: ‘She was my sidekick, I was the one pulling her around in the little red wagon in the front yard after church on Sunday. We always did everything together.’
The Twiggs went public with their search, which soon revealed that only two white babies had been born in the hospital during the time of Arlena’s birth.
Arlena’s brother Will Twigg told 20/20 that the little girl was his sidekick and claimed ‘we did everything together’
Regina Twigg, (pictured), has not spoken to Kimberly Mays in several years but claims she still loves the little girl she lost at the hospital over 30 years ago
Once Robert – his wife having died of cancer – learned what had happened he sat down with Kimberly and explained everything to her ‘like it was a story.’
He refused to let the Twiggs test his daughter however, waiting until she was 11 years old to finally have blood drawn, which proved that Kimberly was the biological daughter of Ernest and Regina.
The 20/20 special, titled Switched at Birth or Stolen, features a new interview with Kimberly Mays, 30 years after she discovered she was switched at birth.
In it she claims: ‘I am Kimberly Mays and I was switched at birth. How did I get swtiched and why?.’
The program also presents new evidence which suggests that the girls may have been deliberately switched when they were born in 1978.
In a trailer for the show, one of the interviewees is heard saying: ‘Here we where, all these years later with a woman on her death bed saying “I know the story and I can tell you what really happened.”
Regina Twigg is also interviewed by 20/20 and she states: ‘The baby did look different, I told the nurse I thought she looked different.’
Another interviewee tells the show that the case: ‘was not something that happened by chance, this had to have been intentional. This was no accident.’
Kimberly met the Twiggs as a teenager, and made several more visits in the months that followed to their home.
Things began to get difficult for Kimberly however, who said in interviews that Regina asked the young girl to call her ‘mom,’ and even asked to call her ‘Arlena.’
Kimberly agreed to call the woman ‘mom,’ but refused to be called ‘Arlena’ while at the Twigg household.
Robert stopped the visits soon after they began however, citing Kimberly’s poor grades in school.
At this same time both families were involved in lawsuits with the hospital, with Robert suing for $10million and the Twiggs going so far as to accuse the hospital of deliberately switching the babies.
The Twiggs eventually settled for $7million while Robert and Kimberly received a $6.6million settlement.
Despite the settlement, the Twiggs continued to accuse the hospital of switching the babies, something a nurse’s aide later claimed did happen shortly before her death.
That woman, Patsy Webb, said that a doctor at the hospital was aware of the switch and that money had been paid to him. Regina would also accuse Barbara, at that point dead of ovarian cancer, of being involved in the switch.
Regina said that Barbara’s family the Cokers, a well-to-do family in the town, likely paid for the switch in order to ensure getting a healthy baby as Barbara had suffered fertility problems for years.
She even shared this version of events with Kimberly – then just 11-years-old – when she first visited with the Twigg family.
‘She said that my grandmother had so much money that she bought to switch us,’ said Kimberly in a 1993 interview with Barbara Walters.
When Walters pointed out to Regina in that same 1993 interview that calling Robert a criminal could have a negative impact on Kimberly, she responded by saying; ‘Well Kimberly is going to need to learn to live with the truth one day.’
Having had their visitation rights taken away by Robert, the Twiggs responded by seeking full legal custody of Kimberly.
The 14-year-old fired back however, and sued to terminate the parental rights of Ernest and Regina. Her decision resulted in national media attention and a heated trial.
The trial was being broadcast at the time, and as he spoke Kimberly could be seen in the background hysterically sobbing while he spoke, unable to catch her breath.
When asked what she would say to Regina if she had the chance, Kimberly said in that 1993 interview; ‘I wish I had my life back. A normal life. It’s ruined.’
She then broke down as she told Walters; ‘I don’t have a normal life.’
Kimberly eventually won her divorce from the Twiggs. Then, six months later in a move that shocked everyone who had been following the case, Kimberly moved in with Ernest and Regina.
The move was actually at the request of Robert who was trying to deal with Kimberly after she ran away from home and began staying at a YMCA for troubled teenagers.
She did this again when she was 17 years old and living with the Twiggs, again staying at a YMCA, and after that split time between both households.
Kimberly married boyfriend Jeremy Weeks in February 1997 when she was just 18-years-old, and that August gave birth to a son Devin.
In an interview that Kimberly gave in 2015, she claimed she was living in Clearwater and works at a call center to support herself and her children. She gave birth to six children with four different fathers.