SVU, Episode 6.01
Production number: E5201
First aired: 21 September 2004
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Stabler Novak Birthright
Written By
Jonathan Greene

Directed By
Arthur W. Forney


Six-year-old Patty Branson is almost abducted in Central Park while her father reads the paper. Benson and Stabler investigate and find out that the men who attacked her are actually P.I.'s hired by Michele Osborne to kidnap Patty, claiming she is Patty's real mother. M.E. Warner conducts a DNA test to determine the child's true biological mother. Meanwhile, Benson traces the source of the confusion about the child's origins back to a fertility doctor.


A day at the park turns traumatic for six-year-old Patty Branson when someone tries to kidnap her. She escapes, and the would-be kidnapper flees with only a handful of her hair. Elliot and Olivia are called to the scene. Told that the perp was on a bicycle, Elliot wonders how he had expected to carry off Patty.

Olivia talks with Patty, who describes the perp as a "big boy" (that is, not a man or a young boy). Patty had encountered him once before, outside the neighborhood supermarket where her parents shop. Somebody knows Patty's movements, and seems to be specifically interested in her. The supermarket manager tells Fin and Munch that the previous week, a man and a teenage boy were in a dark blue van parked near the store, obstructing the delivery entrance. He noted the van's Arizona license plate number. A check on that number reveals that the van was also seen recently near Patty's school.

Elliot and Olivia talk to the school security officer who reported the van, which had been parked in the teachers' zone. As they leave the school, they see the van parked nearby and call for backup. Shortly before dismissal, a boy emerges from the van and mingles with the parents waiting for their children. Cragen and Fin confront the van's driver, and arrest him after he unsuccessfully tries to pass himself off as a cop. Elliot, Olivia and Munch arrest the boy.

The man is Peter Carson. The boy is Kenneth Pratt, who is actually 23 years old but looks younger. Both men are private investigators, licensed in New York and Arizona. Carson is known for rescuing kidnapped children and returning them to their custodial parents. Patty picks Pratt out of a line-up.

Initially both Carson and Pratt refuse to discuss their ongoing investigation, which they insist is based on accurate information. Cragen tells Pratt that New York state is ready to revoke Pratt's PI license, which will lead to Arizona's doing the same. Faced with possibly losing his livelihood, Pratt reveals that he and Carson were hired to return Patty to her real mother. Carson insists that Patty is his client's daughter, who vanished four years ago.

Elliot and Olivia visit Carson's client, Manhattan resident Michele Osborne. She readily invites them into her home and shows them photos of her daughter, Anna. One is of Anna at age two, when she disappeared. The other is an age-progressed photo showing what Anna would look like today. The second photo looks startlingly like Patty Branson. Michele tells the detectives that Anna disappeared from a rest stop when Anna and Michele's husband, Steve, were driving to his parents' home in New Jersey. Steve Osborne is dead, killed in a car crash. Michele is sure that Patty is Anna, and happily shows them Anna's bedroom all ready and waiting for a six-year-old.

Elliot and Olivia arrest Michele for conspiracy to commit kidnapping. The arraignment judge grants Casey's request for an order of protection forbidding Michele to come within 100 feet of Patty, her parents, their home, or Patty's school. Huang is intrigued by the fact that Michele had updated Anna's bedroom for her daughter's return. Most missing children's bedrooms are kept the way they were when the children disappeared. They practically become shrines, but the fact that Michelle keeps on updating Anna's room tells him that she's confident that Anna's coming home. Olivia then adds in even if Michelle would have to steal another Anna.

A background check reveals that Michele is clean. Birth records indicate that Anna and Patty were born two weeks apart in different cities, so they weren't switched at birth. However, Huang can't find Anna in the Missing Children's Center database. An FBI database reveals why: Anna is dead.

SVU is informed of a disturbance at the Bransons' house. Michele has violated the order of protection, repeatedly ringing the Bransons' doorbell and saying she "has proof." Olivia tells Michele that they know the truth: Anna was killed in the same car crash as Steve Osborne. Michele argues that the police never found Anna's remains. Olivia replies that the car had been hit by a gasoline tanker; there had been nothing left to find. Michele vehemently insists that Anna is alive. During Olivia's exchange with Michele, Elliot finds Peter Carson in a parked car around the corner. Carson has the lab report of a DNA test on Patty's hair. The report indicates that Patty is Michele's daughter.

The Bransons insist that Sarah carried and gave birth to Patty. Warner tests a lock of Anna's hair provided by Michele. Anna and Patty are different children, but their mitochondrial DNA (from the mother) is identical, meaning that Anna and Patty were sisters. Their birth records indicate that both girls were conceived through in vitro fertilization. The only explanation for the current situation is that the fertility doctor implanted Michele Osborne's embryo into Sarah Branson.

Michele and Sarah had gone to the same doctor, Dr. Stanley Norton. Michele tearfully apologizes for her behavior, and Sarah asks that the order of protection be lifted. However, Casey insists on taking Michele to trial for violating the order. Given that Norton created this mess, Olivia asks Casey to cut Michele a deal. Casey tells Olivia to talk to Norton. If he verifies Michele's and the Bransons' stories, she'll consider it.

Dr. Norton denies that his clinic could have made such a glaring error. The only way this incident could have occurred is if Michele had agreed to donate her unused embryos. He provides a copy of Michele's signed consent form, which contains checkboxes for multiple items. The box agreeing to donate unused embryos is marked. Michele verifies her signature, but firmly denies marking that particular box. Norton's office had specifically asked her and Steve about donating embryos, and they had declined because they didn't want someone else giving birth to their child. Michele hadn't had any extra embryos; Norton had placed all her fertilized eggs back into her.

SVU obtains the original consent form, and the lab determines that the disputed mark is a forgery (due to the use of gel ink which wasn't available until 2 years after the consent form was completed). Casey obtains subpoenas and warrants for all of Norton's patient records and clinic logs. Sarah Branson's records note that none of her eggs had fertilized. Instead of telling the Bransons the truth, Norton had simply given Sarah one of Michele's embryos.

Patty disappears during a school trip to a local museum. Shown a picture of Michele, the teacher remembers seeing her near the museum entrance as the children left. Michele's house is empty, but family photos show that she has a beach house in Queens. Elliot and Olivia go there and arrest Michele for kidnapping. Patty is physically unharmed, but emotionally very upset: Michele told her that she's her real mother.

Michele refuses to accept a plea bargain, or to give up the fight for Patty. Casey realizes that while the law and the evidence is on the Bransons' side, the jury's feelings aren't. She seeks advice from devoted father-of-four Elliot. If Michele is convicted she'll go to prison, which she doesn't deserve. If Michele is acquitted, she'll keep fighting the Bransons for Patty in a battle that will never end. Elliot recounts the biblical story of King Solomon, who had to decide which of two women claiming the same child was really the mother. Solomon called for a sword, then ordered that the child be divided in two and half given to each woman. Casey says that unlike Solomon, she can't split the baby. Elliot replies that Solomon didn't have to.

At the trial, Patty Branson takes the witness stand. She testifies that Michele told her she was Patty's "egg mommy." Although Sarah Branson gave birth to Patty, the egg Patty came from was from Michele. Eventually Casey asks, "You know what Michele said about being your egg mommy is true, right?" Patty begins to cry and wails, "No. It's not true! Michele's not my mommy! I don't want to go with Michele! Please don't take me away!" She asks to leave the witness stand, but Casey says she can't until they're finished. Patty becomes more and more hysterical until Michele can't stand any more, and cries, "Stop it! Just stop it!" Michele then apologizes to Patty and says she'll never bother her again. Patty runs off the witness stand to her parents, crying for her mother.

Michele pleads guilty to custodial interference, and is given a suspended sentence. She decides to move out of state, because it's too painful to be near Patty and not see her. Olivia finishes auditing Norton's fertility clinic records. Michele had extra embryos, 10 of which had been implanted in other women. In addition to Patty, somewhere out there Michele has three other children.


Main cast

Recurring cast

Guest cast



Cragen: $3,000 worth of damage to the car?
Staber: What can I tell you, I zigged when I should have zagged.

Stabler: King Solomon said, "Bring me a sword. Divide the living child in two. Give half to one mother, half to the other.
Novak: Except I can't split the baby.
Stabler: Solomon didn't have to.

The law has to catch up with technology.

–Casey Novak

Benson: Michelle didn't have four embryos. She had sixteen, ten of which were implanted in other women.
Stabler: How many live births?
Benson: Besides Patty, Michelle has two daughters and a son out there somewhere.

Background information and notes

  • "Genetic rape" is what Benson called what is done to the woman whose embryos were implanted in another woman.
  • The Biblical story of Solomon's Wisdom is explicitly recounted by Stabler (which he does not fully finish) and subtly mirrored in this episode.
  • Goof: When Stabler is out playing with his kids, he catches Dickie's shot and then gives the ball back to him. However, when the camera flips back to the kids, Lizzie's the one who's holding the ball.

Episode scene cards

1 2 3 4

Shopper's Choice
159 West 84th Street
Thursday, June 3

Osborne Residence
124 Riverside Drive
Thursday, June 3

Part 35
Friday, June 4

Norton Fertility Clinic
848 Park Avenue
Tuesday, June 8

5 6 7

Crime Lab
One Police Plaza
Wednesday, June 9

Part 38
Thursday, July 22

Part 38
Monday, July 26

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