Baby Deseray was removed from Oklahoma shortly after her birth in May by Bobby and Diane Bixler of Irmo, South Carolina.

Adult Son of Couple Adopting Deseray Says They Were Abusive Parents

Suzette Brewer

A family court judge in South Carolina has scheduled a hearing on October 25 to finalize of the adoption of Baby Deseray, despite an Oklahoma court ruling last month that granted custody to the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, and ordered her return to that state. The infant, who was removed from Oklahoma shortly after her birth in May by Bobby and Diane Bixler of Irmo, South Carolina, has been the subject of a second heated interstate custody battle between an Oklahoma Indian tribe and the state of South Carolina. The Bixlers are represented by Raymond Godwin, attorney for Nightlight Christian Adoptions of Greenville, South Carolina, and Paul Swain, a Tulsa, Oklahoma attorney. Both lawyers also represented Matt and Melanie Capobianco in their adoption of Veronica, which was finalized in September after a bitter four-year custody battle with the girl's biological father, Dusten Brown.

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

Cherokee Nation Mourns as Veronica Is Returned to Adoptive Family

The story of how Deseray wound up in South Carolina with the Bixlers is a cautionary tale about a mother's desperate yearning for another baby, a fractured family-in-crisis, and the money, friendships and alliances in the legal community that intersect in ways that are reportedly at odds with state and federal laws designed to protect Indian children like Deseray. It is also a chilling bellwether for how the recent Supreme Court Ruling in the Baby Veronica case, in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, is being exploited by the adoption industry.

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

But most disturbing is the revelation that one of the adult sons of the Bixlers says they were physically and emotionally abusive parents who should not be allowed to raise another child.

Raising Deseray

This story begins almost 20 years ago. Although Bobby and Diane Bixler already had four children, three sons and a daughter, they had tried for years to get pregnant again in the hopes of having another girl, according to their youngest son, Josh. In particular, Diane was “obsessed” with having another girl, says Josh, and even decorated a nursery in the couple's five-bedroom home in Irmo, South Carolina, outfitting it with baby furniture, clothes, toys, a changing table and a rocking chair. Even as two of her sons shared a room, Diane kept the nursery vacant—hoping, waiting, praying, Josh says. But that baby never came. As the years went by, the Bixler children grew up and left their family home, but the “baby's room” remained untouched for over a decade, Josh recalls.

Finally, the Bixlers turned to adoption, even though they were far from the typical adoptive couple—for starters, Bobby is 64 and Diane is 60, so they would be ineligible for most international adoptions, which have age requirements related to risk factors regarding health and aging. About a year ago, however, they began working with Godwin and Nightlight Christian Adoptions in Greenville, South Carolina. In 2012, the Bixlers tried to adopt an infant in Pennsylvania, but that placement fell through, according to a family member. In April, however, they were paired with Crystal Tarbox, a birth mother in Oklahoma who left the child's biological father late in her pregnancy and put her unborn child up for adoption without his consent or knowledge. Tarbox, a member of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, gave birth to Deseray at the Stillwater Memorial Hospital in May. The Bixlers made the trip to Oklahoma from South Carolina to be present for the baby's delivery, and took physical custody of her shortly after her birth. Meanwhile, their attorney, Mike Yeksavich, who is based in Tulsa, asked Oklahoma County Judge Allen Welch to appoint Yeksavich as the child's guardian, evidently to ensure a no-fuss adoption, which Welch granted. According to correspondence from Yeksavich, the Bixlers indicated that Bobby "had to get back to work," and so they packed up and drove back to Irmo, South Carolina with the baby girl they had sought for so long.

But that's when their happy ending started to go horribly wrong. In direct contravention of state and federal law, and with no paperwork or custodial orders in hand, the Bixlers had left the state of Oklahoma with the girl, who turned five months old last week. [Despite repeated requests from Indian Country Today Media Network, Crystal Tarbox, the Bixlers and their attorneys have all refused to comment on this story.] Before the decision in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl had even been handed down by the Supreme Court, Godwin had filed in early June to finalize Deseray's adoption. Neither Jeremy Simmons, the putative birth father, nor the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, for which Deseray is eligible for membership under ICWA, were given notice that the adoption was docketed to be finalized until 24 hours before the hearing in South Carolina in late July, according to lawyers for both Simmons and the tribe. It was in a Greenville, South Carolina family court that the judge in the case noticed that the Bixlers did not have an Interstate Custody for the Placement of Children (ICPC) application from the state of Oklahoma and refused to finalize the adoption. Under state and federal law, potential adoptive parents seeking interstate children must have prior written authorization from the “home” state. Failure to comply is grounds for criminal kidnapping charges, which is a federal felony in all 50 states.

Mike Nomura ( mid-September, Mike Nomura, the ICPC compact administrator for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, approved the application to remove the child to South Carolina only days after Oklahoma County Judge Allen Welch ordered the return of the infant back to Oklahoma and granted custody to the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.

This summer, Nomura told ICTMN he was aware of the situation surrounding the girl's removal to South Carolina and the lack of due process. But he subsequently granted the application anyway—a full four months after the girl was taken from the state by the Bixlers, who are now represented in Oklahoma by Tulsa attorney Paul Swain. On September 24, Nomura declined to comment on the adoption by the Bixlers. Initially, the Bixlers were represented in Oklahoma by Yeksavich, but correspondence between Yeksavich and Godwin, obtained by ICTMN, reveals that the two lawyers fought over fees and job duties, and Yeksavich severed his professional relationship with Godwin. In one of his letters to Godwin, Yeksavich said he “disagreed” with Deseray's placement with the Bixlers, though he did not state what his objections were. Yeksavich and Godwin both declined to comment for this story. While all this legal wrangling plays out, one of the Bixler’s adult sons alleges that his parents are unfit to adopt or raise a child.

A Blind Eye

Josh Bixler, 29, a sergeant in the U.S. Marines Corps, says he was shocked when his sister told him their parents had just adopted a newborn from Oklahoma. He says his sister, who lives in Oklahoma, told him their parents had even stopped by her house on their way out of the state to show the baby off and take pictures. The Bixlers had even given the girl a new name: Merry Rejoice Bixler.

In an exclusive interview with ICTMN, Josh alleges that his mother and father are unfit parents and accuses both of them of mental and physical abuse toward him and his siblings during their childhood.

“It was a reign of terror,” he says. “In my opinion, my mother is completely unstable and her mood is like the wind. We never knew which mom we were going to get when we came home from school: Angry mom, resentful mom, happy mom, crying mom—you just never knew.”

Bixler says his mother was “obsessed” with having another baby to the point that he and his three siblings were forced to pray a specific prayer every night. “It started when I was eight. We had to say, 'Lord Jesus, we pray it would be your will for our mom to have a baby girl'—every single day for years,” he says. “At 14, we got a new house and she put together a nursery and would go in there for hours and sit in the rocking chair, rocking back and forth with her eyes closed, praying. It was creepy.”

Josh says his father, Bobby, was even worse.

“He is an extremely violent man,” says Josh, whose wife just gave birth to their fourth child last week. “My father is the most violent person I have ever known. He was non-communicative until he was angry and then he would just launch out of wherever he was sitting and just come at you. He hit, kicked, slammed, threw and beat me with a belt.

“I have to say I am very concerned for this child. I am the father of four children and I won't even let them anywhere near my own kids.”

Josh says one of his siblings also strongly opposes the adoption and supports his claims of abuse. In a phone interview with ICTMN, that sibling corroborated Josh's allegations and voiced the same concerns for Deseray’s safety. Because the case is still pending before the courts, Josh’s sibling is not ready to go public at this time. Both siblings say that it was their history of abuse and the way in which their parents went about obtaining Deseray that caused them to come forward.

“When I found out last year that they had started the process of adoption, I did everything I could to try and stop it,” said the sibling. “I even went to the South Carolina Department of Social Services to report them and the caseworker told me that because they went through a private adoption agency that there was nothing I could do. They wouldn't even let me file a report. And no one ever did any kind of background check or even bothered to ask their other children if these people were fit to adopt a child—which they absolutely are not. I'm fully supporting my brother and I am scared for this child.”

“As a father, I feel for Jeremy Simmons and I can't even imagine what it would feel like to have someone just come and snatch your kid,” Josh says. “As for the tribe, it's also a shame on the adoption industry. To me it feels like this was the 1700s, when they were raiding Indian settlements and taking their kids. Nothing has changed. But as a Christian, I am opposed to Nightlight because it feels like as long as people pay them money, they're justifying these adoptions and the manner in which they're doing it. It's disgusting.

“The whole thing is highly unethical, starting with the adoption agency right on down the line,” says Josh’s sibling. “They absolutely do not need to be raising another child. I fear for her.”

No Reason to Rejoice

On October 25, a South Carolina judge has scheduled a hearing to finalize of the adoption of Baby Deseray, but the baby's putative father, Jeremy Simmons, and the Absentee Shawnee intend to be present to block the adoption and seek the return of the child to her home state. For Don Mason, Simmons' attorney, the return of Deseray has become a mission.

“Honestly, I believe [convicted serial killer] John Wayne Gacy could walk into a South Carolina courtroom and adopt a child,” says Mason. “That's how little they care about children  and how much they care about money. Given the facts of this case, I intend to do everything I can to seek justice for this little girl. She deserves better than she has gotten in her life and we owe it to her and the many others who are slipping through the system unchecked.”

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metis22's picture
Submitted by metis22 on
This shows how South Carolina has revived its Old South lucrative slave/adoption trade business - human can still be bought for a price and it's in the name (only) of 'Christianity.' SC claimed Ok gave it jurisdiction in Veronica Brown Capobianco's case - they can NOT claim it in this case. Holding a baby hostage should not count as "best interests." Everyone in the world should be watching the baby auction blocks in South Carolina, the human trafficking is alive and well there.

Rebecca Gomez's picture
Rebecca Gomez
Submitted by Rebecca Gomez on
I can't imagine anybody having the heart to remove an infant from the mother right after birth, totally shocking that indian children are getting funneled like human trafficking, and this is not the first baby, it seems there is a racketeering of indian children through adoptive agencies doing big business and it's time to take a good look at this type of crime facing and threatening Native Americans

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Ramona: Taking Native children out of their community, home and culture is racist and genocidal. Adopted children, white and otherwise, do not get the committed parenting that biological children get. They are treated worse than the family dog.

redwood's picture
Submitted by redwood on
Thank you ICT for your investigative reporting. I cannot believe the "mainstream" media are not picking up on these stories, except to condone these unethical adoptions. What does it take for the DOJ to become involved? These children are being transported across state lines, prior to having the proper paperwork, and nobody is jumping up and down? This story certainly makes me wonder what other skeletons the Capobiancos had in their closet, as well. This "Nightlife" adoption agency is pure evil! Praying for this little baby, and still praying for Ronnie Brown as well!

Bonita Bane's picture
Bonita Bane
Submitted by Bonita Bane on
The humane society is stricter with letting the animals go to a home than this!!! It is kidnapping plane and simple. Now get her back to Okahoma!! and to someone of her own race! It is plane to see this is not on a priority case list. The SW who did not have them fill out "something" to prove they were there is lazy and not doing her job!! Make this WRONG RIGHT!!!!!!!!

Barbara Sullivan-Parry's picture
Barbara Sulliva...
Submitted by Barbara Sulliva... on
Protect the babies of our Indigenous Peoples from the baby thieves. This is off the wall crazy!

kim scribner's picture
kim scribner
Submitted by kim scribner on
this is totally insane,that poor baby,surely something can be done to stop it!!!

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
That's exactly why research on ppl who want to adopt need to looked at & ppl in their circle questioned as well. Like a police background check.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
That's exactly why research on ppl who want to adopt need to looked at & ppl in their circle questioned as well. Like a police background check.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
same players as those responsible for tearing Veronica Brown away from her loving father. Surprise, surprise.

Augie's picture
Submitted by Augie on
Good for the Native mother and father to come forward (who cares if it is the 11th hour-the choices you make sometimes take much time to ponder) and do what is right. There is NO reason and offspring would say what they have about their parents if it were not real.The ICWA laws are federal, and very clear-no matter what agency is conducting the process-ICWA is clear, loud and mandatory!!! We need not leave this baby to the doom, gloom and possible death at the hands of these crazy sick people. if I had my way ALL prospective adoptive parents would have to under go a psch eval-for whatever they are worth. As a past child protective services caseworker I can verify first hand this process-even though state agencies-DOES NOT PASS THE BUCK! Anyway I am with these birth parents I am with them in spirit-every step of the way. The system in lace currently has been abused so long-that's how it got where it is-they rule. Let us not be Idle No More!!

philip61040's picture
Submitted by philip61040 on
Dear South Carolina Judge, Please stop this adoption by Bobby Bixler of Deseray. The Bixlers are clearly unfit and two of their own adult sons absolutely incriminate their parents as having raised them as unfit parents. The Bixles obsession over having a little girl for 10 yrs or more is very indicting!! sincerely, Philip L. Davidson, age 73

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
for God's sake open your eyes and give that baby back to it biological father! these people who are trying to adopt this little angel do not deserve to be parents!

Joannie's picture
Submitted by Joannie on
Thanks goes to Josh and his sibling for speaking out! I knew there was an issue going on with these adoptive parents taking the underhanded route, and you shone a light on it. Now, it's the job of the attorney, Don Mason, to run with this--get an injunction or whatever it is that lawyers do.

builds-the-fire's picture
Submitted by builds-the-fire on
Now this is scary and disturbing. They not only stole Deseray, they gave her to mentally unstable people--as described by the couples own natural children! Adoption laws should probably be standardized state to state to prevent people in states like SC from obviously selling babies.

chahta ohoyo's picture
chahta ohoyo
Submitted by chahta ohoyo on
halite it is indeed horrible when our children have become commodities, and apparently can be stolen by white people under the thinnest of guises..just another example of assimilation/colonization by the u s govt who does not care this is happening, and indeed, hopes it does happen until we are all extinguished....even if one at a time...

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Which tribes have a foster/adoption program? If they want to secure their children's lives something like this should happen.

redwood's picture
Submitted by redwood on
@ Augie: Just to be clear, it is the tribe and the non-Indian father attempting to get this baby home. The Indian mother is the one who gave up the baby for adoption, but the Indian maternal grandmother is supporting the non-Indian father in getting his daughter back, as well as the Absentee Shawnee tribe in OK. As in Veronica Brown's case, procedures were not followed correctly, and the baby was whisked away to South Carolina, without the proper signatures from the state of Oklahoma, nor without an opportunity for the tribe to intercede, because no one was notified. There seems to be some kind of "underground pipeline" that is operating between this Nightlight adoption agency in SC, and lawyers, and possibly even some judges in OK. Certainly, the adoption industry in South Carolina needs to be seriously looked at. How can a couple of people of this age, and apparent background, have EVER been considered for the adoption of a baby? What is going on in South Carolina? Is no one looking into this? Is anyone asking questions of the right people? Why aren't the citizens of SC outraged over this?

Irishrose29's picture
Submitted by Irishrose29 on
I know these two examples are of Indian children, and it is disgusting. I want to point out that this is happening all day every day to all races of babies. There are those (not all) potential adoptive parents who want a baby, period. If there are "other family members" such as fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents that are willing and able to provide a loving home - oh well, too bad, the birth mom has decided to "give" us this precious gift. She is loving in this decision and that is final. There is no such thing as "a child's best interest is to be with family first, culture and heritage second, and strangers last. So, please know, this "infant adoption" where the mom is encouraged (or coached, or coerced, or bought) to give an adoptive couple a gift, rather than consider her child's best interest and inquire within her own family, or the fathers family first, happens all day long.

neshoba humorus pig's picture
neshoba humorus pig
Submitted by neshoba humorus pig on
As a native adoptee my self who was abused I can say that it is time all native brothers and sisters stand idle no more. wakan Tonka will hold us responcible for not standing up for these childrens rights

spottedfoot's picture
Submitted by spottedfoot on
DAMN but I'm sick of reading about stolen American Indian children. This story sounds so like mine of 71 years ago, but there were no stories published "back then". This stealing of our children has got to stop. These 'adoptive (thieving) parents" are WAY to old to be granted adoption rights. The woman who STOLE me died when I was 8 years old. I have NO original birth certificate but the fraudulent one I have states she was 44 when she stole me. Funny how when she died she was actually in her 70s, and NOT 52 which she should have been according to that fraudulent birth certificate I have. All of her treachery was accomplished while her husband (my adoptive father) was overseas. He knew nothing of the 'adoption' and when he returned home he was enraged there was a girl in his home. In all it wasn't a good life growing up and I still don't know who I am. A search through an adoption rigthts group in the late 80s found that there are NO records of my birth - that it was a black market adoption and I was sold to this old woman. I was told once in my youth that there were secrets I was not supposed to know. Now I know what those secrets were but I still have no idea who I am or where I came from with the exception that I was once told that my birth father was American Indian. And so 71 years later I still don't know the truth and I reckon now I never will. The knowlege that this crime, and it is a crime, continues today is a stab in my heart everytime I hear of another stolen child. Send Deseray back to her tribe! This crap has got to stop. With an adult son of the adoptive parents stating that they were abusive parents I have NO undestanding of how this adoption could even happen. F##king white men making money on Indian children is all it's about. No consideration for that baby and where she really belongs. I can tell you right now I know what will happen to this child if she is given to these too old to adopt wasichu abusers and it is NOT pretty. She belongs with her people PERIOD!

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I am sure I will have many of you jump all over me on this comment, BUT Here Goes! THIS case is NOT just about the Indian Law! This was illegal from the get go! They did not have the popper paperwork to take this child! The Father clearly made attempts to be a father and WANTED his child before birth! I do not believe this couple should be able to keep this baby! With that being said.... I was in support of the Capabianco family adopting Veronica because the Father signed his rights away and expressed his desire to not be apart of her life, until months later! THIS IS A VERY DIFFERANT CASE! I Believe this father was ROBBED of his child and then In light that this couple has had adult child come forward saying they were abusive! This is one to be investigated! And it is NOT just an Indian thing... This is an abuse of the system!

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Jean's picture
Submitted by Jean on
It bothers me I haven't seen this news anywhere except Indian Country Today. Why aren't both governors trying to stop this adoption? Aside from the the Bixler's son's accusations, who would ever consider it right for a couple in their 60s to adopt a newborn not biologically related to them?

Mike Yeksavich's picture
Mike Yeksavich
Submitted by Mike Yeksavich on
The reporter has misrepresented the facts as to me and even as to adoption law. That reporter has never talked to nor has that reporter ask to talk to me. When I have time I will send a letter to the editor, not to someone who claims to be a reporter and misrepresents the facts. This also illustrates why if something is in print whether it should be believed or not. A good reporter verifies and does not add their own editorial bias.

Iggypix's picture
Submitted by Iggypix on
Do biological fathers have no rights? They are forced to pay child support. They do have parental rights. So shouldn't they have a right to decide if there child is put up for adoption or not? This fathers parental and civil rights have been violated