BROOKLYN -- Malondya Johnson, 40, always dreamed of taking her two daughters and husband to the Bahamas, but it was never possible, because she didn’t have a U.S. passport.
She didn’t even know her real name or have a birth certificate, until February 4, 2015. That’s the day she was reunited with her biological mother, Lucy.
Malondya’s journey to finding an identity took 38 years, and Malondya was not the name she was born with.
When we met Johnson in 2014, the mother of two told us she only knew that she was called “Millie” as a toddler.
Johnson had seen our disturbing series of reports about the 1970s Brooklyn household presided over by phony bishop, Devernon Legrand.
Legrand would force women living in the Crown Heights home to dress as nuns and beg for money. At night, he would take one of the women to his room.
It’s estimated he fathered 50 children.
Millie was not one of Legrand’s kids. But she believed that she lived briefly in the home with her mother, who apparently left after sustaining a severe beating.
One of her mother’s friends—Rita Nelson—got Millie out of the Legrand house and brought her to live with Nelson’s family.
“She saved my life,” Johnson tearfully recalled this week of Nelson, who died a couple of years ago. “It doesn’t take a person to give birth to be your mother. This lady raised me, she molded me, she made me the person I am today. And I deeply appreciate it.”
When Millie was growing up, one of Nelson’s relatives gave her the formal name, Malondya—and she got a baptismal certificate, along with an estimated date of birth. But that wasn’t good enough to get a U.S. passport.
Millie’s biological mother, Lucy, saw our report about the Legrand household in late January 2015 on the internet—nearly a year after our series aired.
A week later, PIX11 reunited Lucy with her daughter. It was an emotional meeting in Millie’s Brooklyn home. Lucy brought her daughter’s tattered birth certificate, which stated that Millie’s real name was Mildred Lucia. She was born on August 27, 1975 in Brooklyn’s Cumberland Hospital.
After the February 2015 reunion, Johnson met her older half-sister, who is married on Long Island with four children. The two sisters started visiting each other. “We have a ball,” Malondya shared with PIX 11. “I’m her little sister!”
Johnson told PIX11 meeting her niece and nephews has also been a huge blessing. “She has wonderful children,” Malondya said.
Johnson also visits her biological mom, who has moved from Pennsylvania to Long Island. When I asked Malondya if it feels like Lucy is her mother, she responded, “Sure, in a certain way. She gave birth to me; she loves me, I’m sure. It’s just going to take some time for us to get there.”
Johnson added, “It’s been 38 years. That’s like a total stranger. But I welcome her with open arms. I don’t think about the past or what happened in the past.”
Malondya Johnson has a daughter about to graduate from college and another daughter in high school .
Once she got her original birth certificate, she had some decisions to make about her name.
She decided to officially change her first name from Mildred to Malondya. So now, the Department of Health has issued a new birth certificate for Malondya Lucia LaTorre Johnson.
Once Johnson received the new birth certificate, she was able to apply for her U.S. passport. It arrived in the mail in the last week.
“I sleep with it,” Johnson told PIX 11 excitedly. “It’s like I’m somebody, I’m recognized!”
Johnson told us she’s fiddling with her dreams for that first, Caribbean vacation. “Turks and Caicos,” she said.
So if anyone knows a good deal, let Malondya Johnson know!