South Carolina Couple Takes Custody Of 'Baby Veronica'
TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma - An Oklahoma father turned over his 4-year-old daughter to her adoptive parents Monday evening.
Dusten Brown has been fighting to keep Veronica for half her life. It's been a very emotional evening for Brown, and for his supporters, as they learned Veronica is no longer with her biological father.
Shortly after 7:30 p.m., the transfer was made in Tahlequah.
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree said Brown and his wife, Robin, packed two bags for Veronica, one with clothing and one with toys. He said Brown told her how much he and the rest of his family love her and that he would see her again, then sent her with a Cherokee Nation attorney to be handed over to the Capobiancos.
Hembree said it was a peaceful transfer and Brown willfully cooperated, but said the fight to bring Veronica back to Oklahoma is not over.
Brown supporters gathered on tribal land to hold a candle light vigil.
Once Hembree addressed the crowd, people broke out in tears, many sobbing uncontrollably and asking how this could happen.
"We hope the Capobiancos honor their word that Dusten will be allowed to remain an important part of Veronica's life. We also look forward to her visiting the Cherokee Nation for many years to come, for she is always welcome. Veronica is a very special child who touched the hearts of many, and she will be sorely missed," Hembree said in a statement Monday night.
Mediation talks in a Tulsa courtroom between Matt and Melanie Capobianco and Brown ended without an agreement after the two sides could not agree on a plan for Brown to visit Veronica. So, the case went back to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The state Supreme Court declined to take jurisdiction over the adoption dispute and voted to lift the emergency stay issued by the Nowata County district court on August 30, according to court records.
The emergency stay was keeping Veronica in Oklahoma with her biological father. The Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision to lift it cleared the way for the Capobiancos to take Veronica back to South Carolina.
The vote was not unanimous, with Vice-Chief Justice John F. Reif and Justice Norma Gurich dissenting, and Steven W. Taylor abstaining. Chief Justice Tom Colbert concurred in part and dissented in part.
The Capobiancos released a statement saying, the "family's long legal nightmare finally has come to an end. Matt and Melanie cannot wait to bring Veronica home and begin the healing process as a reunited family."
Matt and Melanie Capobianco and Brown have been fighting for four years over who should have custody of Veronica. After the United States Supreme Court ruled last summer that the Indian Child Welfare Act didn't apply to Brown's case, a South Carolina court finalized Veronica's adoption.
Hembree would not give details about the transfer, but he did say this is far from over and there are still appeals to be made.
"It is a bad day for the Cherokee Nation. It's a bad day for Native children everywhere, but more importantly, this is a bad day for the Brown family and Veronica," Hembree said.
Brown supporter, Linda Martin, said, "What went through my mind is this poor child, this poor beautiful kid from God is going to be in turmoil. Her life is turned upside down."
We also saw an ambulance come to the house where the Brown and his family were gathered shortly before the transfer was made. Multiple sources tell us Brown's father had a possible heart attack from dealing with this emotional custody battle.