An Iowa couple adopted a newborn baby, but was forced to give him back to his birth parents after the mother changed her mind. Five weeks later, the baby was murdered by his father.
As People reports, Rachel and Heidi McFarland decided to adopt a baby boy after Rachel learned that one of her co-workers at a nursing home was about to be a grandmother. The unnamed woman’s daughter was having a baby and wanted to put it up for adoption.
With the help of Des Moines attorney Jason Rieper, the McFarlands began the process of adopting the baby boy. They coached the birth mother through her pregnancy and were even present in the delivery room when she gave birth. They named the boy Gabriel.
Unfortunately, before all of the i’s had been dotted and t’s had been crossed on the adoption, the baby’s birth mother, Markeya Atkins, had changed her mind and demanded the baby back. Because Rieper had failed to get the birth parents to sign over their parental rights — a routine and critically important part of any adoption — there was nothing the McFarlands could do. Heartbroken, they turned over their beloved son.
Five weeks later, the baby boy was murdered by his birth father, Drew James Weehler-Smith.
Police say that the infant boy died of head trauma. His mother had left him in the care of Weehler-Smith, who at the time was a high school junior, in his care. When she came home, she found the baby “alone, pale, wet and foaming from his mouth and nose.”
Weehler-Smith is currently serving 50 years for second-degree murder.
The McFarlands learned of Gabriel’s death watching the evening news on TV.
Rachel and Heidi believe that Gabriel’s death could have been prevented had their lawyer properly filed all of the paperwork. Had that happened, they say, Gabriel would never have been returned to his birth mother.
“The release-of-custody never got signed by either birth parent. Obviously our child and us weren’t a priority to [Rieper].”
A jury agreed with the couple, and found Riper negligent. Though the McFarlands have been awarded $3.2 million, they don’t expect to see a penny of it.
In the meantime, the McFarlands have moved on as best they can. They’ve adopted another baby, a girl they’ve named London, and Heidi has since given birth to another daughter, Vienna.
Still, the memory of Gabriel lingers in their hearts.
“We had him for 78 days. We loved him from the first idea. We cut his little mohawk off. All we have left of him is his hair, and little did we know that would be all we had left of him.”
Meanwhile, Rieper’s attorney plans to appeal the verdict.
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