Friday, February 10, 2012

What's in a Name? A Little Jail Time Maybe?

Having a unique name can really set you apart.  Both of our children have somewhat unique names, our daughter more so than our son.  They are named after my two grandfathers.  Yep, our daughter is named for my paternal grandfather.  She is, I think, the fifth generation of my family to carry the name.  My father, brother and nephew all have the name as their middle name.  It was my grandfather’s first name, and he was named for an uncle.  After we named our daughter, two other members of the extended family used the name for their girls.  Despite the extensive use of the name in my family, I have never met anyone not related to me with the name.  That's not unexpected, however, since according to one website, fewer than three people per million have this name in the United States.

So imagine my surprise when in 1989 we revealed our newborn’s unique name to a friend.  “Oh, like the character on Dallas.”  What?  Dallas?

Original cast of Dallas, via
Like millions of Americans, I watched Dallas the first season or so.  Back in 1978, the days of three networks and PBS, most of us watched the same television shows.  In addition to the soap opera qualities of Dallas, there was a certain tragedy in seeing Barbara Bel Geddes, who had worked with the likes of Henry Fonda and James Stewart, now working with Larry Hagman.  Just think about that. 

By 1989, though, I had left Dallas far behind.  Who knew that Dallas ran until 1991?  Certainly not me.  And we had unknowingly named our sweet little daughter the same name as some wanton, scheming Dallas character?  Fortunately, Dallas ended soon afterward, and that connection seemed to fade from people’s memories.  Or maybe not.

Time passed and our daughter’s unique name once again seemed like a good choice.  Then in 2009, her name almost earned her a trip to the slammer, just like some character on Dallas.

One October evening, there was a knock at our front door.  I found two policemen, looking very serious, standing on the porch.  They didn’t seem friendly, and they were asking for our daughter.  What?  Why?  By this time, my husband had joined me at the door.  We told them that she was in Ireland (it was her study abroad semester).  “Are you sure?”  “How do you know she’s in Ireland?”  What?  Of course I’m sure.  I flew over there with her and left her at uni.  Further questioning ensued.  “Does she know a man named ‘Mexican Mike’?”  What?  I don’t know; I don’t think so.  We were sternly informed that this is a very serious situation.  Ok, but what the heck is going on?  To say we were confused would be an understatement.   

When the two officers were finally convinced that we (honest-looking souls that we are) were telling the truth, one of them spoke into the walkie-talkie clipped to his shoulder.  “Ok, you can stand down.”  WHAT???  It was about this time that I noticed that the cops were wearing bulletproof vests.  Out there in the dark yard, our house had been surrounded by armed policemen.  Armed policemen who wanted to take our daughter away.  Are you kidding me?  One officer relaxed enough to tell us that something very serious had happened downstate and that they had word that our daughter was involved.  Did someone steal her identity?  What the heck is going on???  The officer promised to call us later.

File:Handcuffs01 2003-06-02.jpg
photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons
Here is what had happened.  There had been a double homicide in downstate Illinois.  Neighbors of the victims fingered a young couple.  They didn’t know the girl’s last name, but they knew her very unusual first name.  A name given to fewer than three people per million in the United States.  The witnesses were then shown DMV photos of girls with that first name.  The witnesses picked out our daughter’s photo.  We all know DMV photos are notoriously bad, but our daughter did bear a passing resemblance to the girl the police sought.  Based on that erroneous positive ID, the police had come to arrest her, and were clearly prepared for a shoot-out if necessary.  I was incredibly grateful that our daughter was almost 4,000 miles away.  Of course, it would have been straightened out, but not before she had been taken into custody and questioned, perhaps none too gently.  After all, two people were dead, and our girl had been positively identified as one of the murderers.

So what’s in a name?  I don’t know, but I don’t think the same thing would have happened to an Ashley or a Jessica.


  1. Ohh my!!!! that's the only good thing about being a Maria :)

  2. Oh my gosh! I can't believe this happened. How scary! I'm so glad that everything worked out, but just imagine if your daughter had been home...Your story would be a bit longer, wouldn't it? Good thing she was away. That would have been even more terrible to go through!
    My kids have somewhat unusual names. Not too many others out there, and they are certainly not as common as Ashley or Jessica! But I hope nothing like this happens to any of my kids!
    Thanks for sharing. =)
    from Blogging Buddies

  3. That's very scary! It's a good thing your daughter was in Ireland at that time! To think of the ordeal she would have been put through just makes me cringe.

  4. I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time, but that is hysterical!!!

    btw I tagged you in today's post on Mercantile Muse. If you feel like playing, great. If not, no worries.

  5. What a nightmare!I can't even begin to imagine! Has anyone in the family used this name since this happened?

    Your cacciatore is cooking away as I type and smells soo good. I got a nice bottle of Italian wine to go with it. We'll toast to you and your daughter's health!

    Thanks so much for adding the Knit-a-Square button!!

  6. Wow!! That is a crazy story! Glad your daughter didn't go on a murderous rampage. That is completely nuts.

    Fun fact: My dad's name is J.R. :-)

  7. Holy Cow! It sounds like a scene from a movie! Cops surrounding your home must have felt totally surreal... anyway, glad your daughter was far away from the confusion. And although probably not funny at all at the time, it did make for quite an interesting blog post! :)

  8. Wow! Thank God she was so far away! Can you imagine how traumatized she would have been because of this? You can look back at it as a comical and unusual situation but had she been home, it might have been different. That's so scary!

  9. Oh my goodness! That's quite an incident- I'm glad she was out of the country, and also innocent of course!

  10. If this had been posted on April 1st I wouldn't have believed it!
    Glad everything worked out in the end.

  11. Wow! Didn't think that could happen. Scary.

  12. Holy smokes! That is an amazing and extremely scary story! You do read about these kinds of mix-ups that go very badly. Thank goodness your daughter was safely far away.

    Dough, Dirt & Dye

  13. What an unbelievable story! You must have been so frightened with those two policeman at your door asking after your daughter - not to mention all the other armed officers hiding in the bushes. I would have been beside myself. And what if she was home and not in Ireland with the perfect alibi. Would they have arrested her, there on the spot? Scary times.

  14. I guess that's one of those stories you can laugh at AFTERWARDS?!!?? I never saw Dallas, but your story has left me wondering what your daughter I called! Our children have very unusual names also and I have never thought about how risky that could be!

  15. Wow! This is a crazy story! Luckily your daughter was in Ireland. What a nutty mix up!

  16. I missed this post! What a horrible ordeal.
    How scary that must have been.


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