Facebook/Standing Our Ground for Veronica Brown
Recent photos of Veronica Brown, nearly 4 years old, with her dad Dusten Brown

Baby Veronica Case: Capobianco Expert Recants Damning Report on Father

Suzette Brewer
August 19, 2013

In the Summer of 2011, Jan Hunt received a request from a guardian ad litem, Jo Prowell, working on a custody case in South Carolina. Hunt, who lives in Oregon, had been asked to write a letter on “attachment and bonding” in a contested adoption in which the biological father was seeking to reclaim his daughter.

Apart from the fact that the father was Native American, Ms. Hunt was given no other names or identifying details in the case—only that he had “come out of nowhere to overturn an adoption” after the child had lived with her adoptive parents for two years. From the beginning, the guardian ad litem operated on absolute secrecy and insisted on numerous rewrites of Hunt's work.

Hunt is a family counselor with a focus on attachment parenting and child advocacy. With a master's degree in counseling psychology, she is the author of three books on parenting. Additionally, she operates the website www.naturalchild.org.

Prowell, who is not a lawyer, has worked as guardian ad litem in numerous adoptions for attorney Raymond Godwin and Nightlight Christian Adoptions based in Greenville, South Carolina. In this capacity, she testified in favor of the Capobiancos at family court that Veronica should stay with Godwin's clients.

“He was a loser and a terrible person to the birth mother, that's how she presented it. [Prowell] told me  [Dusten Brown's] family was out of their minds and that this poor adoptive couple [the Capobiancos] were being treated terribly,” says Hunt. “But she wouldn't give me any of the names, or the name of the attorney she was working with or even the name of the baby. And as I was working on my letter [regarding attachment], whenever I asked about the father, she said that he 'was out of the picture,' and that the only reason he was contesting the adoption was because his tribe had put him up to it. She said that his mother would probably be the one raising the child because he didn't really want her.”

Hunt fell for Prowell's story hook, line and sinker, believing what the guardian had told her in maligning Dusten Brown's character and his family's and tribe's intentions toward Veronica.

“Jo Prowell said it was about money,” says Hunt. “And everything she said about the tribe was very negative. She said that the only motivation [the Cherokee Nation] had toward the child was money—that 'they get money for every tribal member they have.'”

So for approximately two weeks, she and Prowell revised and edited her letter to the South Carolina Family Court in favor of the Capobianco's position as the adoptive parents of Veronica and her bonding with them over the previous two years.

RELATED: Capobiancos Send 'The Locator' TV Star to Take Veronica From School

“She kept asking me to reorganize my paragraphs in a very specific way and was very persistent and demanding,” says Hunt. “I've written lots of letters to judges, but I was just so motivated to help this baby. My son and I were on vacation scanning and faxing the letter and she just kept changing it to the point where I thought it was really strange. No one had ever done that before.”

In truth, Dusten Brown had tried numerous times to reach out to his ex-fiancee, who had cut off all contact and refused his financial help, which is a common tactic in South Carolina adoption law in terminating the parental rights of unmarried fathers. Additionally, he had been fighting virtually from the beginning of his daughter's life for custody, and the adoption had never been finalized—the Capobiancos were at that time still in pre-adoptive placement. All of which had been left out of the discussion with Hunt.

RELATED: Inseparable Sisters: Adoption Order Exacts Toll on Baby Veronica's Family

In his brief to the Supreme Court that was filed in January, Dusten Brown made it clear that Prowell had not acted objectively in her role as an officer of the court, and had asked for her removal after she visited his parent's home in Oklahoma for their homestudy.

During that homestudy visit, Brown's mother,  Alice, later testified that Prowell was dismissive and not interested in seeing the room they had decorated for Veronica or any of the things they had bought for her.

In fact, Prowell asked the Browns “if they prayed.” The Browns replied that, yes, they did. Prowell then remarked that they should “get down on their knees and pray that they make the right decision” in keeping Veronica with the Capobiancos.

RELATED: Second Indian Infant Whisked to South Carolina for Quickie Adoption

It was only recently that Hunt says she realized just exactly who she had written the letter about and the enormous implications in being involved in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, perhaps the most important American Indian legal case in three decades.

“I was duped and lied to,” says Hunt. “And I am shocked and angry to have learned the truth about this case. [Dusten Brown] had been lied to and tried since the child was born to reclaim her—not two years afterward, which is what I was told. And he's not some terrible ogre or deadbeat, as I had been led to believe, but a father sincerely trying to be with his daughter.”

Several weeks after Hunt had sent the final version of the letter to Prowell, she received an odd phone call.

“As soon as I picked up, she said, 'Don't say anything. You are not to talk to anybody but me. You cannot talk to anyone about this letter,'” says Hunt. “It was all very mysterious and very strange.”

Hunt said the human impact of the story hit home when she saw pictures of Dusten and Veronica together in the media. It was then that she put two and two together in realizing the truth.

“I literally felt ill when I realized who this letter was for,” says Hunt. “I never had any idea that Veronica was the child in the letter, I just knew it was a child in South Carolina. I have felt angry with myself for not pushing and asking more questions, but [Prowell] kept it from me for a reason. How could anybody think that taking this child from her biological father who obviously loves her very much is a good idea?”


The Fight for Baby Veronica, Part 1

The Fight for Baby Veronica, Part 2

The Fight for Baby Veronica, Part 3

The Fight for Baby Veronica, Part 4

The Fight for Baby Veronica, Part 5

Supreme Court Reverses, Remands Baby Veronica Case Back to South Carolina

Baby Veronica Must Return to Adoptive Parents

Anger Erupts Across Indian Country Over Baby Veronica Ruling

More coverage of the "Baby Veronica case"



Samantha Franklin
Samantha Franklin
Submitted by Samantha Franklin on

Thank you for caring enough to do investigative reporting on this important issue. I am an Oklahoman and an adult adoptee, reunited with my natural family 22 years ago. Adoptees' identities and birth certificates are changed, and we are "legally" transferred, without regard to the loss we experience. Even in adulthood we are denied access to our true identity, birth certificates, and heritage. We are viewed as commodities and perpetual children by unethical adoption law and practices.

donnaclayton's picture
Submitted by donnaclayton on

Thank you for your articles on this case. Very well written and very informative

Maggie 65's picture
Maggie 65
Submitted by Maggie 65 on

I am sickened by the lies presented by the "adoptive parents". This was a fraud from the beginning put forth by birth "mother" and attornies. She, in effect, sold her child. The Capobiancos continue to show they have no real love for this child by their actions. Adoptions should be to benefit children who have no other option, not for children with loving biological families. It is imperative that children know where they come from; that they know they are valued by their blood relatives; that they know their true heritage. I hope Dusten Brown and the Cherokee Nation continue the fight and succeed.

melissasmith1's picture
Submitted by melissasmith1 on

OF COURSE she recants her statements...who wants to be on the other side of what DB supporters have going on with their one-sided opinions and manipulations. NEWS FLASH Dusten Brown is not innocent. Regardless of being "tricked" into giving away his parental rights, what kind of stand up man abandons his pregnant girlfriend? I mean he admitted the things she accuses him of saying to her in regards of not wanting the baby physically and not wanting to be financially responsible for the child. WHO DOES THAT? How can you look at him as innocent? This is not one-sided, he is not a victim. Had he done what he was supposed to from the start, Veronica never would have been up for adoption in the first place. Also, does no one have an issue with a 27 month being taken from the ONLY PEOPLE she had ever known with not so much as a look back? YOu don't think that was irresponsible. Think what you will of the Capobiancos, but Veronica knew them as her parents and she was taken away from them and hasn't seen them since. None of you think that was cruel to her? Yes, she may seem happy and fine now, but don't think for a second that she didn't cry for them. I have a baby, I know how they react when I just go to dinner or the freaking grocery story without them. Any psychologist anywhere will tell you that Veronica was affected by that. Dusten did her a disservice and was VERY selfish with that decision. These one sided arguments and lies that I have read from biased publications are just sickening. Everyone of you are hypocritical. DUSTEN BROWN IS NOT INNOCENT IN THIS ORDEAL. You want to know where it started, look no further than him. Think what you want of what happened AFTER he abandoned Christy, but without him doing that none of this would be happening...

melissasmith1's picture
Submitted by melissasmith1 on

Additionally, despite what this article would lead you to believe, GAL's report was not ONCE used in the course of the three years of litigation to give the Capobiancos custody. AND despite the alleged false report that was presented in 2010 SC courts still gave Dusten Brown custody. Sounds like this lady is trying to cover her tail. despicable...

Opechan's picture
Submitted by Opechan on

You're just thinking about the feelings of the Capobiancos at best, justifying human trafficking at worst. "Christy" is also pretty shady (see the 8/12/13 article), but that's par for the course when you're selling your kid.

For now, read this article, "Melissa":

In truth, Dusten Brown had tried numerous times to reach out to his ex-fiancee, who had cut off all contact and refused his financial help, which is a common tactic in South Carolina adoption law in terminating the parental rights of unmarried fathers. Additionally, he had been fighting virtually from the beginning of his daughter's life for custody, and the adoption had never been finalized—the Capobiancos were at that time still in pre-adoptive placement. All of which had been left out of the discussion with Hunt.


Dusten Brown is the kind of man who asked his pregnant girlfriend to marry him. The fight between them afterwards sounds like things couples say when they get into a fight and break bad.

As for the rest of it, should Veronica, who is now older and with her actual father and family, be subjected to being ripped from her home again?

Tell me how that is in the best interests of any child.

ntvmedtran's picture
Submitted by ntvmedtran on

Melissasmith1, so you bought the Capobianco's story hook, line, and sinker, too, huh? There should have been a gag order put on them from the beginning because they've been on TV and Dr. Phil, and whoever will believe their story and disparaging Dusten Brown. This case should never have gone to the Supreme Court, especially with this right wing politically active court that we now have thanks to the Republicans and Koch Brothers. The Capobianco's lawyer was a law clerk for Chief Justice Roberts, that's probably why this case went before them. So much for blind justice, right? Mark my words that little Veronica is going to resent the Capobianco's for taking her away from her "real" father.

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on

Now doesn't this just take the cake! I am infuriated! I hope this new & emerging damning information winds up having prosecutors to file charges against this evil washicu couple!

This just keeps getting better doesn't it my friends! I hope the Cherokee Nation & every other First Nations legal organizations go for blood now as more & more dirt on the part of the SC groups & legal teams comes to light!

My friends, there IS a reason when the Great Spirit tells people, "NO!" There is a reason why MORE dirt is coming to light on these evil people. I knew it & predicted it would come to pass.

Let's ALL keep praying to the Creator that this child remain with her father & loving paternal family. This is a case about justice my friends across Indian Country.

Two Bears Growling's picture
Two Bears Growling
Submitted by Two Bears Growling on

Miss Smith, you are on the WRONG board talking that kind of trash. Your kind are NOT welcome to this site. Anyone who supports this evil white family & believes the lies those 2 & their legal teams have been spouting is NOT welcome here!

More information is coming to light on these evil people. They are deceptive, flat out have lied & had folks to lie about things they KNEW was a pack of lies.

I am here to tell you that we First Nations people no longer sit back & tolerate lies being told about our People. We will sue those who slander, malign & distort the truth. You don't believe it? Just watch what is going to happen next in this case!

Quest4Truth's picture
Submitted by Quest4Truth on

This is a very biased story, and I believe hardly any of it. Dusten Brown signed away his rights, period. What does it matter if he knew, or didn't know, that the child was being given up for adoption? He signed away his rights. He initially claimed no Native American ancestry for him or his biological daughter. He came up with the claim to Cherokee heritage as a way to undo a foolish decision. I am not sure why he changed his mind, but regardless, it is no reason to yank an innocent child away from the only parents she knew. The conduct of the Browns in this case are ample evidence of their lack of character. Local people in the know do not have flattering things to say about this man. As a Native American, I am appalled that Dusten Brown is giving us a bad name. As a Native American, I am appalled that the Cherokee Nation is using this innocent child as a pawn.

nokomis's picture
Submitted by nokomis on

Two Bears Growing, your ignorance and lack of critical thinking is coming across as a mean spirited person who has a lot of personal issues. On one hand you blame the white man and are playing the victim, however, you fail to realize that the Capobiancos are good people just like like Dusten Brown and Christy Maldonado because they all love beautiful Veronica.

Your comments are an embarrassment to Native people who can think outside the box. You sound like you have a lot of demons that you need to work on.