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Adoption attorney seeks to overturn Oklahoma jurisdiction in Baby Deseray case

October 31, 2013

Indian Country
Today Media

Suzette Brewer

Sources in South Carolina have reported that Raymond Godwin, the adoption attorney representing Bobby Bixler, 64, and Diane Bixler, 60, in the "Baby Deseray" case, has filed a motion in that state seeking to retain jurisdiction over the case. Last month, Oklahoma County Judge Allen Welch ordered the return of the infant back to Oklahoma and granted custody to the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.

RELATED: Oklahoma Judge Gives Custody of Deseray to Absentee Shawnee Tribe

Second Indian Infant Whisked to South Carolina for Quickie Adoption

In early June, the Bixlers took Deseray, who has been renamed "Merry Rejoice Bixler," and fled Oklahoma without permission from the state or any orders granting them custody of the child. Tulsa-based attorney Mike Yeksavich initially represented the Bixlers in Oklahoma, and asked Judge Welch to grant him (Yeksavich) legal guardianship of the child to ensure a speedy adoption to South Carolina, in collaboration with Godwin and Nightlight Christian Adoptions in Greenville, South Carolina. But Yeksavich, who has since distanced himself from Godwin, subsequently attempted to halt the adoption of the baby to the Bixlers and demanded her return, which the Bixlers and Godwin ignored.

The Bixlers are now represented by another Tulsa attorney, Paul Swain, who is close friends with the state's administrator for the Interstate Custody for the Placement of Children (ICPC), Mike Nomura. Swain is also on the board of directors for Nomura's privately owned adoption agency, Heritage Family Services, which is based in Tulsa. Neither the attorneys, nor representatives for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services have commented on the case.

RELATED: Oklahoma Adoption Attorney Approves Baby Deseray Removal for Friend

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, who directly oversees the state's department of human services, also declined to confirm or deny whether she will be seeking South Carolina's compliance with Judge Welch's standing order to return the child immediately and granting custody to the Absentee Shawnee Tribe.

Additionally, Gov. Fallin declined to comment on whether she would be asking South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to grant full faith and credit to the order as she previously had done in signing a governor's warrant for the arrest of Dusten Brown in the "Baby Veronica" case. Brown, Veronica's biological father, turned the girl over to another adoptive couple from South Carolina in September after a four-year struggle to retain custody.

RELATED: Cherokee Nation Mourns as Veronica Is Returned to Adoptive Family

As Deseray has entered her second week in South Carolina foster care, Gov. Fallin also declined to comment on the ongoing issues surrounding the illegal adoptions of Native children in Oklahoma.

RELATED: Trafficking Native Children: The Seamy Underbelly of U.S. Adoption Industry

The tribal governor for the Absentee Shawnee, Edwina Wolfe, has indicated that she fully supports the return of Baby Deseray to the state so that a best interest determination hearing can proceed regarding the child's welfare, Shannon Jones, the tribe's counsel in South Carolina, told Indian Country Today Media Network.

"The issue now becomes whether Judge Welch has respect for his court and whether he has the resolve to enforce his order," a former federal prosecutor, who declined to be identified, told ICTMN. "South Carolina has shown itself to be contemptuous of the rights of Indian people, so it would not be out of order for Oklahoma to file contempt charges should they attempt to seize jurisdiction when there is already a legally valid order in place asking for the child to be returned. That's a six month jail sentence for anyone attempting to violate that order."




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