A hearing in the cross-country custody dispute for 3-year-old Veronica has ended but it remains unclear what transpired inside a Nowata, Okla., courtroom where her adoptive parents and biological family gathered this morning, The Tulsa World reported.
After more than an hour in the courthouse, the two families left the courtroom. Veronica’s adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island, went to a jury room and her biological father, Dusten Brown, and his wife went to the district attorney’s office the newspaper reported.
Veronica’s biological family appeared to be somber, The Tulsa World reported, but there was no immediate word what happened.
Read the Tulsa World story here.
Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon on Thursday sent two of his deputies and a State Law Enforcement Division agent to Oklahoma in connection with the contentious custody case. Cannon confirmed the assignment in response to questions from The Post and Courier. He said the team was dispatched as a precautionary measure in the event their assistance was needed in connection with upcoming court proceedings in the case.
The sheriff stressed that he has not been informed of any major development or action in the case. Rather, his office has been in ongoing contact with a variety of law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and felt a responsibility to have some presence on hand to provide assistance, he said.
On Aug. 16, an Oklahoma judge barred attorneys and their clients from discussing the dispute pitting the Capobiancos against Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown of Nowata. A mediation agreement was reached during a three-hour hearing that day, but the details have remained under seal.
The Capobiancos flew to Oklahoma earlier this month and have remained there ever since. It appears they have been allowed to visit with the girl who lived with them for 27 months, but it’s unclear when or how often that has occurred, The Tulsa World reported this week.
The newspaper also reported that an attorney appointed to represent Veronica’s interests has asked a Cherokee County court to suspend those visits until further hearings can be held.
Adding to the confusion, Holli Wells, the judge who brought the two sides together for the April 16 hearing and imposed the gag order, recently filed an “order of recusal,” removing herself from the case, The Tulsa World reported.
Brown, a member of the Cherokee tribe, used the heritage he shares with Veronica to get custody in late 2011 through the Indian Child Welfare Act.
The 1978 law was meant to keep Indian children connected to their native cultures.
But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that the ICWA didn’t apply to him because he hadn’t been in Veronica’s life. He has argued that the child’s mother had refused his attempts to get involved when she brushed off his marriage wishes.
Courts in South Carolina later finalized the Capobiancos’ adoption of Veronica, but Brown has refused to give up the girl. His attorneys said he should be allowed to challenge the decree’s enforcement in Oklahoma, where Veronica has lived for the past 19 months.
Brown is wanted on a Charleston County custodial interference warrant for failing to turn over Veronica to the Capobiancos. His attorney has said he plans to challenge the legality of that warrant.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has said she would speed along Brown’s extradition to Charleston if he didn’t let the Capobiancos see the girl.
Biological father Dusten Brown (2nd from left) and stepmother Robin Brown enter the Nowata County Courthouse for a hearing in the Baby Veronica case Friday.×
Veronica, 3, is shown in this Aug. 6, 2013 file photo.×