The Herald Bulletin

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September 23, 2013

Cherokee child handed over to adoptive parents

OKLAHOMA CITY —

The South Carolina couple who adopted a Cherokee girl at the center of a yearslong custody dispute came to Oklahoma last month vowing not to leave without the child.

On Monday night, Matt and Melanie Capobianco took custody of 4-year-old Veronica, hours after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that it didn't have jurisdiction over a case that had already gone all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and had raised questions about jurisdictions, tribal sovereignty and a federal law mean to keep Native American tribes together.

"She's safely in her parents' arms," said Jessica Munday, a friend and spokeswoman for the Charleston, S.C., family.

Supporters of Dusten Brown, the girl's biological father, say he also put up a hard-fought battle for the right to keep Veronica, but that he "willfully cooperated" with the court's order.

"We are deeply, deeply saddened by the events of today," Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree said in a written statement, "but we will not lose hope. Veronica Brown will always be a Cherokee citizen, and although she may have left the Cherokee Nation, she will never leave our hearts."

Hembree said law enforcement did not supervise the transfer. After Brown and his wife, who is not Veronica's biological mother, packed the girl's bags, Brown told her he loved her and a tribal attorney drove Veronica a quarter mile to where the Capobiancos were waiting.

The transfer came hours after the Oklahoma's highest court dissolved a temporary court order that had kept the child in the Cherokee Nation with her father and his family. Until the Monday night transfer, the Cherokee Nation had insisted the girl would remain with the tribe.

Hembree said the Capobiancos promised that Brown, who is a member of the Cherokee Nation, "will be allowed to remain an important part of Veronica's life."

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