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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Famous Triplets Are Victims of 'Science'

It seemed almost a miracle -- three young men, strangers who had grown up in separate families, discovering by accident that they were identical triplets.

Their inspiring story made headlines around the country in 1980. But for all the intense media coverage, a side of this seemingly happy story has remained untold for 17 years, a secret about their childhood that stunned the triplets, Eddy Galland of New Hyde Park, David Kellman of Queens and Robert Shafran of Scarsdale.

For when they found one another at age 19, they also realized that they had been part of a human experiment -- apparently funded partly by the National Institute of Mental Health. For years the same researchers came to each of their homes under the guise of conducting a "child development study." Throughout their childhoods their behavior had been charted, their personalities monitored, their relationships with their adoptive parents scrutinized. The same researchers had gone from the Gallands to the Kellmans to the Shafrans, never telling the boys or their parents the study's true nature or that the boys had identical siblings living nearby. Others were studied, including about a dozen pairs of identical twins put up for adoption through the same adoption agency that placed the triplets -- Louise Wise Services of New York City.

The two living triplets still harbor feelings of anger.

"How can you do this with little children? How can you do this to a little baby -- innocent children being torn apart at birth?" asked Robert Shafran, who lives in Brooklyn and is entering law practice.

David Kellman, now of Maplewood, New Jersey, wonders why he couldn't have grown up with his brothers. "We were robbed of 20 years together," said Kellman, proprietor of Triplets Roumanian Steak House in New York City.

The third triplet, Eddy Galland, committed suicide in 1995, leaving a wife and a young daughter.

The triplets' adoption agency had cooperated in developing the study, an apparently unprecedented project to monitor separated twins and triplets as they grew. Researchers hoped it would shed light on the debate about nature vs. nurture, environment vs. heredity. A lawyer for Louise Wise Services, Nancy Ledy-Gurren, said the study also involved twins placed by other adoption agencies.

Today, advocates for adoptees voice outrage over the project, and several twins researchers and former adoption agency directors not involved in the study express discomfort over separating twins. Adoption agencies labor to keep siblings together, and that was deemed important even in the 1960s.

"I feel it's a terribly destructive thing to do to separate siblings," said Florence Anna Fisher, the director of the Adoptees Liberty Movement Association, a New York City advocacy group for adoptees. "I think it's criminal to separate twins and triplets because they are attached in perpetuity. It's like chopping off a limb."

Dr. Peter Neubauer, 84, the New York City psychoanalyst who directed the study, said that the subjects would have been separated anyway under a policy of Louise Wise Services. "They were not separated for research purposes," Neubauer said. "They [Louise Wise Services] decided to do it, and then they came to me. When we learned about the policy, we decided it gives one an extraordinary opportunity for research."

Ledy-Gurren said Louise Wise Services' activities must be viewed in the context of the time in which they were carried out, when less emphasis was placed on keeping siblings together. In each case, she said, the biological mother consented to the separation of the children.

The study and others went on for years, stopping when the triplets were 12 or 13 years old.

In 1980, Robert Shafran enrolled in Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, New York, which he found to be an extremely friendly campus. "Guys were friendly, slapping me on the back. Girls were kissing and hugging me," he said at the time.

He soon found out why -- a student who had been enrolled in the college a semester before looked remarkably like him.

Michael Domnitz, then a sophomore, found the similarity was uncanny. Domnitz took Shafran to his apartment to see pictures of Eddy Galland, the young man who'd been enrolled there the previous semester. They telephoned Eddy at his parents' home: "Eddy, my name is Bob Shafran. You won't believe this, but I think you're my twin brother."

When the story hit the newspapers, Queens College student David Kellman saw his face staring back from the front page -- twice. He called the Galland home. "I think I'm the third," he told Eddy's mother.