Nearly four months ago, a local judge ruled in favor of an Oklahoma man and ordered that his 2-year-old biological daughter's adoptive parents on James Island turn over custody to him.
Veronica left with Dusten Brown on New Year's Eve, and Matt and Melanie Capobianco have spoken to her only once since then. Both sides head back to court Tuesday, when the state Supreme Court in Columbia takes up the case.
Two close friends of the Capobiancos will throw a fundraiser to help offset mounting legal bills today at Bowen's Island Restaurant off Folly Road. The organizers, Matt and Amanda Elder, live in Houston and planned the event from afar.
“One thing I knew they were struggling with is it's a huge cost for them,” Amanda Elder said in a phone conversation. “We wanted to help not only bring people together to demonstrate emotional support for them, but to help with their legal fund.”
The Elders plan to travel to Charleston for the event and to wear purple shirts with a “V” for Veronica. Amanda Elder said she hopes the event raises money for her friends and also awareness of a larger issue: application of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the federal law at issue in this case.
The Capobiancos connected with Veronica's birth mother in Oklahoma in 2009 after seven failed in vitro fertilization attempts. Four months passed between Veronica's birth and the day Brown filed for paternity and custody.
Brown is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation. He and the Capobiancos endured two years of hearings and paperwork before a family court judge ruled late last year in his favor under the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law designed to preserve Native American families.
Records in the case have been sealed, and all parties remain under a gag order. Representatives of the Cherokee Nation declined to comment for this story.
The Capobiancos' supporters gathered more than 20,000 signatures on a “Save Veronica” petition in the weeks that followed the local court decision, and they hand-delivered the document to federal lawmakers' offices and to Gov. Nikki Haley in January. The couple took their case to the state Supreme Court that month in hopes of overturning the family court ruling.
Tuesday's hearing will be closed to the public.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/allysonjbird.