By Eric Egan
JAMES ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) -- They raised her for two and a half years as their own, until a judge ruled they'd have to give her back. A Lowcountry couple is now coping after turning over their adopted daughter, to the girl's biological father.
The James Island couple adopted two-year-old Veronica from her birth mother in 2009. They've had the little girl since her birth, but because of a federal law the couple fears they may have lost the child they call their own, once and for all.
For Matt and Melanie Capobianco, their house is much quieter and incomplete without Veronica. They say they worry they may never get her back.
"It's a big fear, the biggest fear that we have," the couple said.
The Capobianco's have struggled to have kids of their own. So, they adopted Veronica from a woman in Oklahoma. At the time, according to court documents, Veronica's birth father, Dusten Brown, waived his right to protest the adoption. But the Capobianco's say Brown changed his mind. That set in motion the day when Matt and Melanie had to give up the girl they say is their daughter.
"Matt said, when we had to do the transfer, it was like he was failing her as a father, to send her off with people that she didn't know, what she must think of us," said Melanie Capobianco.
"She just had this, in my mind, really confused look on her face. But I'll always remember her crying after us when we had to walk out of that office and leave her there."
Last Saturday, Veronica was returned to Brown after being with the Capobianco's for two-plus years. The girl spent the next 20 hours riding back to Oklahoma.
"I wonder what she's doing, if she's afraid, and we wish we could be there if she's afraid," said Melanie.
The couple had to give her up because Brown is part Cherokee, and by the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, it's illegal to break up a Native American family.
"It's awful," Matt Capobianco said. "Everybody keeps saying how bad they feel for us but she's a two-year-old girl who got shoved in a truck and driven to Oklahoma with strangers."
Veronica is now living with her biological father and his parents.
The Capobianco's say they spoke to Veronica, shortly, Monday afternoon.
"She said, 'hi Mommy, hi Daddy,' " Melanie said. "She sounded really excited to hear us and she said I love you, I love you, numerous times."
Brief but loving words, this couple says will keep them fighting, to bring Veronica back to their home.
The Capobianco's have appealed their case to the state supreme court. They say the Indian Child Welfare Act should not apply to their case.
It may be April before any decision is made, and until then Veronica will stay in Oklahoma.
A call to Brown's attorney was not immediately returned.