The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

August 8, 2013

Biological father fails to show to relinquish custody of daughter

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Years into their attempt to adopt a Cherokee girl, Matt and Melanie Capobianco say they can empathize with any sadness the girl's biological father might be feeling after being ordered to turn her over to them.

In late 2011, the Charleston-area couple was in a lawyer's office, tearfully handing over Veronica — whom they'd raised since birth — to the father, Dusten Brown, who lives in Nowata in northeastern Oklahoma.

"It was the worst day of our lives, but we also knew then and we know now that it isn't about the adults. It's about her," Melanie Capobianco told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "We had to follow the rule of law. And if we were going to have a chance to get her back, we had to hand her over."

The Capobiancos relinquished custody of the girl after a South Carolina court ruled in 2011 that federal law governing the placement of American Indian children favored Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation, as her custodian.

That ruling was upheld by the state Supreme Court, which based its ruling on the 1978 Indian Child Welfare Act, a law seeking to keep Indian children from being taken from their homes and placed with non-Indian adoptive or foster parents.

The Capobiancos appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the state of South Carolina should determine the girl's placement. The state's highest court subsequently reversed its prior ruling, ordering South Carolina Family Court Judge Daniel Martin to finalize the couple's adoption of the girl, which he did last week.

As part of that proceeding, Martin also approved a transition plan that laid out a gradual process for reintroducing the girl to the Capobiancos. According to the court, Brown failed to show up, with the girl, for the first of those scheduled gatherings on Aug. 4 — a date the couple says was set by the judge and to which Brown's attorneys did not object.

"It was just really disappointing, every minute that ticked by and they didn't show up," Melanie Capobianco said.

Brown's failure to appear prompted an order from Martin on Monday that Veronica, now 3, be immediately turned over to the couple.

The case file is sealed, but the judge's order was obtained by WCBD-TV of Charleston and posted on its website. In it, Martin wrote that he was asking state and federal prosecutors to immediately locate and transfer the girl.

Veronica has been living with Brown's wife and parents in Nowata in northeastern Oklahoma while he serves a monthlong stint with the Oklahoma National Guard. A Guard spokesman said Tuesday that Brown is slated to return Aug. 21.

Due to his National Guard obligation, it is "physically and legally impossible for Dusten to comply with the current order" to show up with Veronica, Cherokee Nation Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said in a statement emailed to reporters.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Brown's request to stop the South Carolina adoption proceedings. He is now pursuing custody of his daughter through the Oklahoma court system.

The girl's biological mother, Chrissy Maldonado, who is not Indian and favors the adoption, has filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming the Indian Child Welfare Act is unconstitutional, and has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to declare some parts of it illegal.

Maldonado has claimed that the law uses race to determine with whom a child should live, and therefore is a violation of equal-protection laws.

Several American Indian groups are also pursuing a federal civil rights case, saying a hearing should be held to determine if it is in Veronica's best interest to be transferred to South Carolina.

In a statement issued last week through his attorney, Brown asked the couple to "ask yourself if you really believe this is best for her."

Since they said goodbye to Veronica more than a year and a half ago, the Capobiancos say they have had no contact with her, writing to her multiple times but only learning about the girl's location through news media reports.

They have pledged to keep Veronica in touch with Brown and other Oklahoma relatives after the child has returned to South Carolina. But they said they have never given up hope she would return to live with them.

"We're her legal parents," Melanie Capobianco said. "Would any parent say, 'OK, someone took my child away for 19 months because of a mistake of law,' and then say, 'Oh, it's OK?' I truly believe she will come out of this unscathed if we all work together."

 

1
Text Only
National and world
  • Economic Recovery web.jpg U.S. economy, though sluggish, may now be sturdier

    • Inflation is under control. Runaway price increases would be destructive. Low inflation can lay a foundation for growth.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast web.jpg Casualty numbers raise questions about Gaza war

    A Palestinian health official put the death toll at 695 and said more than 4,100 were wounded, with civilian casualties rising sharply since Israel sent tanks and troops into Gaza last week in its first ground operation in five years.
    Israel has not offered its own count, but Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said Wednesday that 210 Gaza militants were killed since the ground operation began.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Oil Train Fires web.jpg Stopping deadly oil train fires: New rules planned

    Accident investigators have complained for decades that older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, are too easily punctured or ruptured, spilling their contents when derailed. Since 2008, there have been 10 significant derailments in the U.S. and Canada in which crude oil has spilled from ruptured tank cars, often igniting and resulting in huge fireballs. The worst was a runaway oil train that exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic a year ago, killing 47 people.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taiwan Plane Crash web.jpg Relatives fly to Taiwan plane crash site, 48 dead

    Penghu in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China late Wednesday, authorities said. The plane was on a flight from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona Execution web.jpg Arizona inmate dies 2 hours after execution began

    Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s office said Joseph Rudolph Wood was pronounced dead at 3:49 p.m., one hour and 57 minutes after the execution started.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Flights Canceled Israel web.jpg Airlines ban flights to Israel after rocket strike

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Health overhaul web.jpg Dueling rulings: Courts split on health law clash

    But the split rulings don’t necessarily mean another trip to the Supreme Court for the Affordable Care Act.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Senate Georgia web.jpg Perdue defeats Kingston in Georgia Senate runoff

    Tuesday night’s primary runoff win validates Perdue’s campaign as an outsider.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • ODD Brooklyn Bridge M_Hass.jpg Police probing switch of flags on Brooklyn Bridge

    Video footage of the security breach shows the unidentified people walking on the bridge's footpath at about 3:10 a.m., and 20 minutes later the light on the bridge's Brooklyn tower flickers and goes dark. The same thing happens about 12 minutes later on the Manhattan tower.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Veterans Health_Hass.jpg Obama nominee McDonald pledges to ‘transform’ VA

    Robert McDonald cited problems with patient access to health care, transparency, accountability and integrity, among other issues, during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee over his nomination today.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo 3 Stories

Featured Ads