Saving Veronica

Navigating the complicated TKTKTKTK

By Sam Spence


The federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is enacted to prevent the removal of Native American children from their families without tribal permission.


The last ICWA-related case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court is argued, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians v. Holyfield.

June 2009

Dusten Brown surrenders parental rights to his unborn daughter via text message to her mother Christina Maldonado. Brown would later testify that he believed Maldonado would raise his daughter.

Sept. 15, 2009

Veronica is born. Matt and Melanie Capobianco are present. Matt cuts the umbilical cord.

Jan. 2010

Brown signs papers to end his parental rights, but which actually finalize Veronica’s adoption by the Capobiancos. After learning what he signed, Brown obtains a stay of adoption as he prepares to deploy to Iraq as an Army National Guardsman.

July 2011

South Carolina family court rules that the ICWA is applicable to the Baby Veronica case.

Dec. 2011

South Carolina family court rules in favor of Brown, citing the ICWA. Veronica is ordered to be turned over to her biological father.

Dec. 31 2011

The Capobiancos meet with Dusten Brown at a law office downtown to turn over custody of Veronica. To avoid media attention, Brown leaves through an adjoining restaurant on Market Street. In January, the Capobiancos appeal to the state’s high court.

Feb. 2012

The S.C. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case in April. It’s the first time the court weighs in on the ICWA.

July 26, 2012

“With a heavy heart,” the S.C. Supreme Court rules that the ICWA trumps state law, thereby affirming the family court’s denial of the Capobiancos adoption and the transfer of custody to Dusten Brown. The Capobiancos will not see or talk to Veronica again for TK months despite numerous attempts.

Spring 2012

The Capobiancos’ longtime friend Jessica Munday, who’s served as the couple’s spokesman since the transfer, begins a campaign to raise awareness of the case by delivering a 20,000-signature petition to Columbia lawmakers in support of the Capobiancos. She flies to Washington, D.C. at least twice to discuss the case with federal officials on both sides of the issue.

Oct. 5 2012

The Capobiancos appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oct. 18, 2012

Dr. Phil takes a look at the issues surrounding Native American adoption, prominently featuring the Capobiancos and Cherokee attorney Chrissi Nimmo.

January 4, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case. It will be just the second case in which the Court considers provisions of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.

April 15, 2013

The New York Times Editorial Board declares, “The Supreme Court should reverse the South Carolina state court rulings.”

April 16, 2013

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl is argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.

June 25, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court reverses the S.C. Supreme Court, ruling that the ICWA does not apply in this case and that the South Carolina state court should decide who should have custody of Veronica.

July 17 2013

The S.C. Supreme Court declares that the adoption of Veronica by the Capobiancos be finalized.

July 31, 2013

The State of South Carolina finalizes Veronica’s adoption by the Capobiancos.

Aug. 2, 2013

The U.S. Supreme Court denies an appeal by Dusten Brown that would further delay Veronica’s transfer. Saying Brown was disobeying earlier rulings, a Charleston family court asks local and federal prosecutors to “promptly take any lawful action” to complete the transfer.

Aug. 6, 2013

Veronica remains in the custody of the Brown family in Oklahoma while Dusten Brown completes a 30-day training mission with the Army National Guard. CP Managing Editor Chris Haire writes, “Baby Veronica case begins to recall Elian Gonzalez custody fight.”

Aug. 12, 2013

Matt Capobianco releases a statement saying his daughter “has been kidnapped” and says he and his wife are traveling to Oklahoma, vowing to stay until Veronica’s return. Later that day, Dusten Brown turns himself into authorities on South Carolina charges of criminal custodial interference and is released on a $10,000 personal recognizance bond. Gov. Nikki Haley issues extradition order for Brown.

Aug.16, 2013

The Capobiancos are reunited with Veronica for the first time since December 31, 2011. Nowata County court orders mediation between Capobiancos and Brown and asks parties not to discuss the case with the media. Little is learned over the next two weeks as mediation talks continue.

August 30, 2013

The state of Oklahoma domesticates Veronica’s adoption by the Capobiancos.

Sept. 5, 2013

After Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin issues an extradition warrant, Dusten Brown again turns himself into authorities, but he is released despite concerns by the local sheriff.

Sept. 23, 2013

As visitations continue and mediations reportedly fall apart, the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifts the stay preventing Veronica’s transfer and Cherokee attorneys facilitate the girl’s transfer. The Capobiancos begin their journey back to Charleston with Veronica.

Sources: Charleston City Paper, Post and Courier, AP, Tulsa World, Capobianco family

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