For months after they lost custody of the girl they were trying to adopt, Matt and Melanie Capobianco said they tried contacting Veronica's birth father.
Relatives of Veronica's birth father say they're living in constant fear someone will come and take the girl. Meanwhile, Matt and Melanie Capobianco express the frustration of being so close to seeing their adoptive daughter again.
But Dusten Brown wouldn't give the James Island couple a chance to see Veronica or to hear her voice, they said.
The tables were turned last month as South Carolina's courts prepared to finalize the adoption 19 months after the Capobiancos said goodbye to the toddler.
Brown offered to let Veronica have a visit with the Capobiancos in the summertime and on some holidays. The rest of her time would be spent with him.
But the Capobiancos declined.
“After all this time, the begging and the pleading we did, we never got to see her,” Melanie Capobianco said Wednesday in an interview with The Post and Courier. “Now that we were at the point where they knew the adoption would go through, they offered this as if they've been thoughtful and considerate to us all along.”
The proposal for shared custody was first reported by the Tulsa World in Oklahoma. Dusten Brown's wife told the newspaper that her family understood that the Capobiancos love Veronica and want to be in her life.
She said the offer would have meant that Veronica would spend summers in James Island but most of her time in Nowata, Okla., according to the newspaper.
“It's not about Veronica or what's best for her anymore,” Robin Brown said of the Capobiancos during the Tulsa World interview. “It's about winning.”
But the details shared by the Browns differed from those that Lori Alvino McGill, the attorney for Veronica's birth mother, said the offer actually contained.
It would have allowed the Capobiancos to care for Veronica during only part of the summer and on every other holiday, according to Alvino McGill. Brown would remain the primary custodian. It also required the Capobiancos to move to Oklahoma, she said.
She called the proposal “ridiculous” and said that there was no guarantee that Brown would honor such an agreement.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act shouldn't have allowed Brown to get custody of Veronica, South Carolina's high court asked a judge to finalize the adoption. The offer came July 22 and was good for two days, Alvino McGill said. The judge completed the adoption more than a week later.
The Capobiancos said they're still committed to allowing the Browns to play a role in the girl's life if he honors the adoption order.
Their first attempt at a custody change came and went Sunday, prompting a judge to ask authorities to step in and find Veronica, who turns 4 next month.
Solicitor Scarlett Wilson told The Post and Courier that such a move was afoot Wednesday, but she declined to discuss specifics of the plan.
“We are moving forward pursuant to the court's order and moving toward the goal of bringing Veronica home,” she said.
After no one from Brown's family met with the Capobiancos on Sunday, the Charleston judge ordered an immediate transfer of custody. He also asked Wilson and U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles to help.
Nettles spokeswoman Beth Drake said federal prosecutors were working with state solicitors on a way to address the judge's order.
South Carolina authorities can continue their attempts to carry out the order, but a court challenge is possible in Oklahoma.
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.