Couple in Iowa Awarded $3.25 Million After Adoptive Son Reclaimed and Killed by Biological Father


Iowa couple adopted a son, but after his birth parents reclaimed custody, his biological father murdered the child. A jury in Iowa awarded the adoptive parents $3.25 million as a result.

Rachel and Heidi McFraland filed a lawsuit in August 2014, claiming Jason Rieper, their former attorney made them believe the birth mother had signed a release-of-custody document during the adoption process.

Unfortunately, he never attained the birth mother’s signature and the newborn was returned to his biological parents, which would lead to his murder at the hand of his biological father.

Rachel worked with the pregnant teenager, and the couple arranged to adopt Markeya Atkins child. Rachel was even present during birth coaching Markeya through birth in December. The McFarland’s had never considered adoption, however they named their newborn adoptive son Gabriel.

“We didn’t know if we could do artificial insemination, and it seemed like a route we could afford,” said Rachel McFarland. “The birth mom didn’t care if we were a same-sex couple. It just seemed too good to be true — and it was too good to be true.”

At the time, she said, “Me and Heidi were super excited. We thought it was destiny. We felt lucky.”

After 78 days Rieper told them Atkins wanted her child back and everything changed.

“[Rieper] said there is nothing left for us to do: she wants him back and you have to give him back,” Rachel remembered.

Atkins recalled: “It’s like after I gave the baby to them, they didn’t care.”

The couple, who are now adoptive parents to two girls, found out 5 weeks later when the child’s death was broadcasted on the television. The news broadcast never mentioned the child’s name being Gabriel but Heidi recognized the home and confirmed the address with old doctor bills.

On April 22, 2014, baby Gabriel was found dead in his home by police. Atkins told investigators that when she found him in her apartment he was “alone, pale, wet and foaming from his mouth and nose,” she had left him alone with his birth father, Drew James Wheeler Smith.

According to the newspaper the 20-year-old father, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

David L Brown, the Rieper’s attorney said they will try and challenge the result, they claim the lawyer had no control over the teen mother.

“You can’t control the emotion of a birth mom, and you can’t control the emotions of a 16-year-old birth mom,” he said. “At the end, the kid wasn’t going to do it and the suggestion that Jason was to force her to do it would be unethical for him.”

However, Roxanne Conlin, who represented the McFarland’s argued, explaining in a Facebook post that he “didn’t get the basic document signed by the birth mother in a timely fashion.”

“After having him for 78 days, they had to give him to her when she asked for him. If the lawyer had done what he was supposed to do, the birth mother would have signed the document called a release of custody and 4 days after she signed it, it would have been impossible for her or the baby’s father to take Gabriel away from them.”


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