How Did We Get Here?

28 Aug

Oklahoma, 2008, Dusten Brown and Christina Maldonado are in a relationship. He’s proposed and they intend to marry, although it would seem the feelings are much stronger on his part. Shortly after becoming pregnant, Miss Maldonado informs him of the pregnancy and of her intent to call off the relationship. The best one can ascertain given the facts is that Miss Maldonado isn’t smitten with the idea of marriage and the couple have fought repeatedly. They’ve said things to one another that were less than amicable.

According to court documents, Miss Maldonado and Mr. Brown had several exchanges via text message. Finally, in the heat of an argument, in response to her repeated prodding, Mr. Brown texted back indicating he would ‘give up his rights’ to their child.

However, court documents also show there is much more to this story than meets the eye, much more than has been reported from either side thus far. The following is the story of how the case of Adoptive Couple V. Baby Girl began as taken from various court records.

Veronica was born in Sept., 2009 in Washington County, Oklahoma. Records indicate the couple lived together but that Brown’s absence due to military service and Maldonado’s change of heart are what terminated their cohabitation and pending nuptials…the modern day version of the ‘Dear John’ letter. At that time, Mr. Brown was assigned to training in the U.S. military stationed in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma (approximately 4 hrs. from his home in Bartlesville).

Records state “PRIOR TO THE BIRTH OF THE CHILD (MALDONADO) COMPLETELY CUT OFF ALL COMMUNICATION WITH (BROWN). (MALDONADO) REFUSED TO TELL (BROWN) WHEN THE CHILD WAS BORN AND KEPT THE CHILD’S WHEREABOUTS A SECRET FROM (BROWN). …THE DAY AFTER THE BIRTH THE CHILD WAS TRANSPORTED TO SOUTH CAROLINA. MATTHEW AND MELANIE, LAST NAME UNKNOWN, FILED A COMPLAINT FOR ADOPTION IN CHARLESTON COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA FAMILY COURT ON SEPT. 18, 2009.” Maldonado denied Brown the opportunity to participate in the birth and to contribute towards expenses and support. He didn’t know where his child was since her birth.

Initially, Matt and Melanie Capobianco were allowed to remain anonymous in court documents, referred to only as “MATTHEW AND MELANIE, last name unknown.” Brown, according to Maldonado’s own admission, having no knowledge of the adoption because she wouldn’t take his calls or visits, had no idea if his child was with Maldonado or not. He could only assume she was but never once thought she’d been given for adoption to a couple a thousand miles away. In fact, in court transcripts for some time, Brown referred to his infant daughter as Victoria, indicating not only was he not aware of her birth but that he wasn’t even told her name. While remaining anonymous and not wishing to give him any more information about them than he already knew, they too referred to her as ‘Victoria’ and didn’t bother to correct birth father. Maldonado also referred to Veronica as ‘Victoria’ in proceedings, conspiring with the adoptive couple.

Documents go on to state the first notice Brown had of any adoption action was Jan. 6, 2010 when he was approached by a Lawton attorney asking him to sign papers stating he would not contest the adoption. It’s worth noting here, all evidence points to Brown being scheduled to deploy for Iraq on January 16, 2010. He was given 10 days notice with which to prepare for something they’d known about for more than 4 months at that point. (Some maintain it was actually more than 6 mos. with Maldonado having planned this even while still pregnant with Veronica.)

Records also indicate the document he was presented with was confusing.  He was under a lot of stress pending his deployment with a lot of tasks to complete before that date. He had no attorney to advise him. The documents never mentioned he had a right to an attorney or a choice to not sign. He had no idea what his signature on the document would mean. It was never notarized or verified and at no point did Brown sign away his parental rights. (The record stresses he never appeared in any court to relinquish his rights nor had any court terminated his rights so as to point out that not only did those documents not terminate his parental rights but neither could text messages.) He simply signed an ‘acceptance of service’.

Having been served on Wed., January 6th with those documents, Brown wasted no time in consulting with not only his commander and the JAG division of the military, but he also hired an attorney by Friday the 8th. Given it was the weekend, the attorney called the South Carolina courts and the couple’s attorney at the first opportunity and followed that up with a formal letter stating Brown was revoking his signature on the documents. Despite having received this information both verbally and officially in writing, the adoptive couple’s attorney went on to file these documents with the South Carolina courts giving the impression that father was in fact willing to give his blessing to their adoption. By January 14th, 8 days after being notified not only that his daughter existed, was born and had also been shuffled off to South Carolina, and with deployment looming, he filed in Oklahoma courts to establish paternity and obtain custody of his daughter. Records also indicate that as of Jan. 14th, 2010, Dusten was still in Comanche County, Oklahoma (stationed at Ft. Sill). He’d been fighting from afar without access to all the records, documents and resources that he’d have had at home and was waging his defense in between training exercises.

In hiring his attorney in his hometown of Bartlesville, he’d have to rely on brief telephone conversations to convey his story and faxing documents back and forth. It can be assumed that he was probably rushed and under stress. Records show he forgot to tell her or that she was unaware that he was Native American initially and that information was not included in documents. In fact, documents instead relied on Maldonado’s information on ICPC forms stating this was not a matter concerning Native American heritage. The Indian Child Welfare Act, for this reason, had not yet come into play.

Brown shipped off Jan. 16th, hesitant to leave his child behind but obligated to serve his country at that point. By April, the courts had been informed of the attorney’s error or Brown’s omission regarding his ties to the Cherokee Nation and this case then fell within the guidelines of the Indian Child Welfare Act.  (Worth noting here is that there is some speculation as to whether or not the birth mother and the adoptive couple were aware of the Indian heritage of both birth father and baby. If this were the case, they would also have been obligated to note this but did not appear to have mentioned it at this point.)

The legal battle for Veronica has so far landed in Oklahoma courts, SC Family Courts, the South Carolina Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of the United States and the Cherokee Nation Tribal Courts and continues today in what’s become a tug of war. The hearings continue to focus on various details of their story. Was Brown a deadbeat? Was Maldonado acting out of spite? The case also involves the Indian Child Welfare Act. Jurisdiction has become an issue akin to trying to nail jello to a tree. The Capobiancos and their supporters maintain Brown made no attempt to be a father to his child and that they’ve raised Veronica for the first two years of her life. They insist they are her rightful parents. Brown and his wife, Robin, assert that the child was in essence stolen from Brown through deception while he was preparing to serve and was serving his country. We urge everyone to follow along for more information as we get those new to the case caught up, discuss the case and bring forth more facts.

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2 Responses to “How Did We Get Here?”

  1. Callie (@calligilly) September 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    The baby wasn’t transported the day after the birth, though. Wasn’t it like 7 days?

    • acvsbg September 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

      Yes. You are correct. And we discuss this issue in our other post titled Art of Deception. This article refers to her transfer in December, 2011.

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