Roberts Also Shares His Own Journey to Adopt After Covering This Emotionally Charged Case
Saturday, Nov. 27
(L-R) Caralee, Sabrina Caldwell, Troy and Jonah Roberts
More than two decades ago, 48 HOURS contributor Troy Roberts reported on the heart-wrenching story of a 9-year-old Russian girl who was adopted by an American couple. They called the little girl Caralee, and their lives together started with promise. But two years later, the couple came to believe Caralee was dangerous, even capable of murder. They say she tried to kill her little brother.
Roberts was there as the American couple returned Caralee to Russia and left her behind in a children’s psychiatric hospital. For years, Roberts tried to find out what became of Caralee, and last summer they reunited. He learned her surprising story in a special edition of 48 HOURS: “What Happened to the Perfect Child?” to be broadcast Saturday, Nov. 27 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network and streaming on Paramount+.
“I’ve done many stories during the course of my career, but this was one that – that really stuck with me,” Roberts says.
Caralee’s story first aired on 48 HOURS in 2000. She had been adopted by Crystal and Jesse, an American couple whose last name 48 HOURS agreed to withhold.
Before her adoption, Crystal and Jesse say Caralee was described by their adoption agency as wonderful, outgoing and intelligent. But once in the United States, the couple says she was angry and distant and started behaving badly. Then, they say, the unimaginable occurred – she tried to throw her younger brother off a 30-foot-high deck. She saw several psychiatrists. One psychiatrist told 48 HOURS she was a homicide risk. The couple sent her for months of treatment, but they say nothing seemed to work. Saying they were out of options, they returned her to Russia, and left her in a children’s psychiatric hospital, with Roberts there reporting every development.
It is a story that has haunted Roberts ever since.
“I always wondered how she was doing, if she was thriving, if she was happy,” Roberts says. “Many years passed. She was in my thoughts and in my heart.”
And over the years, Roberts tried to keep track of that little girl, but was unable to find out what happened to her. Then last summer, she reached out to Roberts, and they reunited in North Carolina, where Caralee, now known as Sabrina Caldwell, lives. In an emotional interview, she opened up to Roberts about what she says happened on that family deck and about her amazing journey from a locked Russian ward to finding happiness decades later in North Carolina.
“I have an amazing husband. I can’t thank God enough for him,” Caldwell tells Roberts. “I have amazing kids. But if I didn’t go through what I went through, I wouldn’t have that.”
And the story does not end there.
For his part, Roberts tells Caldwell how meeting her, and seeing her left behind in Russia, changed his life forever.
“I started saying to myself, you know, ‘Maybe one day, I can rescue an older child,’” Roberts says.
And he did. Four years after he left that Russian hospital ward, Roberts became certified to adopt, and learned about a woman in Djibouti, Africa, who was hoping to find an American to adopt her 4-year-old son, whose safety she feared for, because he was mixed-race.
Today, that boy is Jonah Gray Roberts, 23, and both he and Troy Roberts share their incredible life together on 48 HOURS.
“It seems everyone’s story has a happy ending, and that’s pretty cool, you know?” Roberts says.
48 HOURS: “What Happened to the Perfect Child?” is produced by Murray Weiss. Doreen is the producer-editor. Joan Adelman and Gary Winter are the editors. Gabriella Demirdjian is the field producer. Patti Aronofsky is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.
48 HOURS is broadcast Saturdays at 10:00 PM, ET/PT, on CBS and streams on Paramount+. Follow 48 HOURS on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Listen to podcasts at CBSAudio. Stream 48 HOURS on Paramount+.
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