An Iowa couple won big in court on Tuesday after they sued their former attorney for malpractice when the baby they adopted was returned to his birth parents, then murdered by his own father.
PEOPLE reports that Rachel and Heidi McFarland won the lawsuit against lawyer Jason Rieper, who “acted negligently” and failed to successfully get the baby’s biological parents to cut all rights to the infant. The lawsuit spanned back to 2014, when the McFarlands planned to adopt the baby boy from Rachel’s co-worker’s daughter.
Rachel and Heidi McFarland are suing the attorney they say cost them the baby they wanted to adopt–who then died–in 2014.
The McFarlands were present at the little boy’s birth in 2013 and already picked out a name for him: Gabriel.
“Me and Heidi were super excited. We thought it was destiny. We felt lucky,” Rachel said. “We coached her through labor. I cut the umbilical cord. He was in our arms and care the second he was born. We both wanted a boy and both wanted to name him Gabriel. It is a strong name. It is my favorite story from the Bible.”
Yet, in March 2014, after only having the baby for a few months, the birth mother, Markeya Atkins, decided she wanted Gabriel back. The McFarlands were given only 10 days to return the little boy. The couple said their attorney did nothing to help them fight for their new son. Rachel said Ripper told them to give the baby back and that his hands were tied.
“[Rieper] said there is nothing left for us to do: She wants him back and you have to give him back. It was horrible. There are no words. 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.”
In late April 2014, while watching news, the couple heard a devastating broadcast announcing an infant had been killed. Although the station didn’t announce the baby’s name, the address given matched the address of the birth mother.
Atkins told police that she found the baby “alone, pale, wet and foaming from his mouth and nose.” Atkins admitted she left the baby with his birth father, Drew James Weehler-Smith. A medical examiner wrote that baby died from blunt force head trauma. Weehler-Smith later pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
The McFarlands have since adopted two daughters but they’ll never get over Gabriel, their first son, who they say will live in their hearts forever.
“He was just a sweet baby,” Heidi said. “He smelled good. He loved music. Our cats loved him and our dogs loved him. He was just a sweet and beautiful baby boy. He was learning how to smile when we gave him up.”
Meanwhile, Atkins, who wasn’t charged in Gabriel’s death, said she loved the boy and had a new life planned for the both of them when the tragedy occurred. USA Today reports that she also explained that she took the baby back because she felt the McFarlands getting distant and she was worried she wouldn’t have any part of his life.
“It’s like after I gave the baby to them, they didn’t care. God, I can’t even describe how much I loved him.”
[Feature Photo: PEOPLE/Rachel McFarland]