INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - A Kansas City woman's eight-year search for her birth mother ended Thursday night with an unexpected family gathering: meeting the half-sister and extended family she never knew she had.
After eight fruitless years searching for the woman who gave birth to her in Louisiana then gave her up for adoption in Kansas City, Leanna Launer posted a Facebook photo of herself holding a sign that explained who she was looking for.
The photo went viral in days and after 41 Action News' Cynthia Newsome first reported on it this week, there was a breakthrough.
A man named Ron Armstrong reached out to Launer on Facebook. He said he met and married Launer's mother Lucinda years after the adoption. His Lucinda Armstrong was the mother Leanna had been searching for.
"Honestly I thought it was too good to be true," Launer said in an interview on Thursday.
And in a way, it was. While all the details, timing and even photos bore out that Lucinda was Launer's mother, Ron had terrible news. Lucinda was diagnosed with Melanoma and passed away four years ago in November.
But there was hopeful news, too. Ron and Lucinda had a daughter, Jessica. She would be Leanna's half-sister. On Thursday night, less than a week after Leanna posted her Facebook plea, she met Jessica, Ron and the family she never knew she had.
Over ice cream, hugs and lots of photo-taking, Leanna's two children met their new aunt and family, and Leanna shook her head and laughed, admitting she had almost given up her eight year quest to find her family.
"Searching for eight years and I found them in five days," she laughed.
Soon, Leanna and Jessica will undergo genetic testing to confirm the relation and Leanna will visit her mother's grave for the first time.
She now believes she knows where her biological father may be too, and finding him will become her next mission.