Nowata County Hearing Held In 'Baby Veronica' Custody Battle
NOWATA, Oklahoma - News On 6 has learned a three-year-old Nowata girl caught up in a custody battle was supposed to be turned over to her adoptive parents Friday at 5 p.m., but that didn't happen.
We've learned through an Oklahoma appeals court web site that Veronica's biological father's attorneys filed an appeal with the Oklahoma Supreme Court and we believe they granted a stay.
The biological father and adoptive parents of "Baby Veronica" were at the Nowata Courthouse Friday. The Green Country town is home to "Baby Veronica's" biological father, Dusten Brown.
Around 8:30 a.m., Veronica's adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco, arrived with police escorts. A short time later, Brown and his wife arrived.
Just like a judge in Cherokee County, a Nowata County judge ordered everyone to keep quiet about Friday's hearing, but a source tells News On 6 the two families were there for an adoption hearing.
"Me and my sister, we came here to give support," said Joan Candy-Fire, Dusten Brown supporter.
The hearing was kept under wraps, but two lone supporters found out and came to show their support for Brown.
"We aren't protesters; we are advocates for Dusten Brown keeping his beautiful daughter in Nowata, Oklahoma," said Joan Candy-Fire.
While they were outside, Cherokee Nation Marshals and a Nowata County Sheriff's deputy guarded the courtroom door.
After 45 minutes, we saw Brown and his wife leave the courtroom and go inside the District Attorney's office for about 15 minutes before leaving the courthouse. A few minutes later, the Capobiancos went inside the court jury room for about an hour before sneaking out a back door.
Brown supporters say they know what it is like to live with foster and adoptive parents and that is why they believe Veronica should stay with her father in Nowata.
"I was growing up, you know, not being around our people that loved us and it was very hard life," said Joan Candy-Fire. "We're still here, but only because we had strong and good people from our tribe and our tribal family that helped us."
There was no sighting of Veronica at the courthouse Friday, but we are told she was in Nowata and spent the day at school.
The legal dispute is taking place in Oklahoma, South Carolina and Cherokee Nation courts of law.
The Capobiancos remain in Oklahoma while the custody case goes through Cherokee tribal courts. They came to the state after a South Carolina court awarded them custody of the child.
Angel Smith, an attorney appointed to represent Veronica's interests, has asked the Cherokee County District Court to suspend the Capobiancos' visitation rights with Veronica until a hearing is held.
Brown turned himself in to Oklahoma authorities on a charge of custodial interference in the custody battle that has gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He is expected to argue his case on that charge in an Oklahoma court room on September 12.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma courts could rule at any time that the South Carolina adoption order must be upheld.
The Capobiancos were present at Veronica's birth and raised her for more than two years. The South Carolina Supreme Court ordered them to turn her over to biological father, Dusten Brown, in January 2011, citing the Indian Child Welfare Act. In June, after the Capobiancos appealed, the U.S. Supreme Court said Brown was not entitled to custody of Veronica based on ICWA.
The Capobiancos' adoption of the girl was finalized in South Carolina on July 31.
Immediate transfer of custody to the couple was ordered by a judge on August 6, but Veronica remains in Green Country and Brown faces felony custodial interference charges in South Carolina while he tries to fight through Oklahoma and tribal courts.