When Dusten Brown picked up his biological daughter of nearly two years and looked into her eyes for the first time, he felt as though they had always been together.
So now that Brown and Veronica are apart, finding words to describe the pain he has suffered over the past three days wasn’t easy.
But, he said in his first statement since handing over custody of Veronica on Monday, they won’t be apart forever.
“I moved heaven and earth for two years to bring Veronica home to her family where she belongs,” he said Thursday night. “That bond was instantaneous, and nothing can break it.”
Since Monday night, the 4-year-old has been in the care of her adoptive parents from James Island, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. The couple released their own statement Tuesday that said the reunited family was doing well but trying to heal.
They have not yet returned to the Lowcountry.
Brown’s statement came on a day when Gov. Nikki Haley said she was discussing what to do with the pending warrant calling for his extradition to South Carolina. He’s wanted here on a felony charge for not promptly relinquishing custody under a court order in early August.
But Brown eventually complied, prompting Oklahoma’s governor to withdraw her own support of his extradition.
Veronica had been living with Brown since New Year’s Eve 2011, after he used the Indian Child Welfare Act to block the Capobiancos’ adoption. Both the child and her birth father are members of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.
But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the ICWA didn’t apply to him because he hadn’t been in his ex-fiancee’s life when she was pregnant.
Veronica was transferred to the Capobiancos early this week after Oklahoma’s high court allowed the South Carolina adoption decree to be enforced there.
“We are heartbroken at the loss of our daughter,” Brown said of the agony that he and his wife, Robin, have experienced this week. “Veronica is my child, my flesh and blood, and I love her more than life itself.”
Whether Brown sees Veronica again depends on various factors, including whether the Capobiancos allow such visits.
Haley also has been in talks with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin about how to resolve the criminal matter, she told The Post and Courier on Thursday.
As he fought the adoption decree in Oklahoma, Brown was arrested twice there, but he was released on bail each time. Fallin signed an extradition order Sept. 5, but Brown avoided the process as he challenged the warrant’s legality. A hearing on the matter is set for Oct. 3.
On Monday, Brown aided in the transfer of Veronica, so Fallin has indicated her waning support of shipping him to the Lowcountry.
And the focus for Haley all along, the governor told The Post and Courier, was to bring Veronica back to South Carolina. She doesn’t expect any development on the extradition for several more days, she said.
Despite the uncertainty hanging over him — he also has appeals pending in Oklahoma courts — Brown maintained a hope that he’ll gaze into his daughter’s big brown eyes once again. His statement Thursday night addresses her directly.
“Mommy and Daddy love you and miss you so much, and we cannot wait until we see you again,” he said. “We will see you again.”
Schuyler Kropf contributed to this report. Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.