BABY GABRIEL: Adoptive Parents Angry With Attorney

Des Moines police are investigating a four-month old boy’s death. Officials say the child died alone after being left in his glider chair in an apartment.

His adoptive parents say the tragedy could have been avoided.

The child’s birth-mother, 16-year-old Markeya Atkins left the baby with his father, 17-year-old Drew Weehler-Smith. When Atkins returned home, she says Smith was gone and their baby was turning blue.

New details emerged Wednesday that the baby had only been with his birth parents for about a month. Before that the child lived with adoptive parents.

Rachel and Heidi McFarland say the baby they adopted would likely still be alive today if only their adoption attorney had done his job.

The McFarland’s were with baby Gabriel from the time he was born.

“Me and Heidi coached her through the labor. And we had him the moment that he came out,” adoptive mother, Rachel McFarland said. “I cut the cord.”

Unfortunately, they couldn’t be there when Gabriel needed them the most.

The McFarlands believed they were Gabriel’s adoptive parents until his biological mother came and took him away in March. One month later, Gabriel was found dead. The McFarlands had a lot invested in this adoption – emotionally and financially.

“We pay for our lawyer, obviously, and then the baby, Gabriel, had his own lawyer which we were more than happy to pay because we want him protected and then we pay for the mother`s lawyer and so at the end, we end up paying for two lawyers to fight against each other,” Heidi explained.

jason rieperBut the McFarlands say their attorney, Jason Reiper, didn’t file court paperwork in a timely fashion terminating the parental rights and that’s why Gabriel’s biological mother was able to take him back two-and-a-half months after she was supposed to give him up.

Ryan Genest is a family law attorney who specializes in adoptions. While he can’t speak directly to this case because he wasn’t involved, he does tell us, generally speaking, terminating the rights of the birth parents is the first step in an adoption.

“It’s a two-step process. The first step is to file a termination of parental rights. That process is normally started by obtaining a release of custody from at least one of the two parents,” Genest says.

From there the birth parents have a limited amount of time to change their minds.

“Any parent that signed the release, there’s 96 hours to change their mind. For any reason. If they fail to change their mind in those 96 hours they can ask the court to revoke their release, but at that point they have to show what’s called good cause,” Genest added.

The McFarlands say they repeatedly pushed Reiper to file the paperwork terminating parental rights, but he always made some excuse. Although the records are sealed, it doesn’t appear as though Reiper ever filed that paperwork otherwise the birth mother could not have been able to take Gabriel back.

The McFarlands say he would have been safe with them.

“This is what has happened to me and Heidi – our world has been turned upside down. Heidi lost a job that she absolutely loved and worked for eight years for them, the baby was taken away from us, and now he`s died and we have nothing left. There`s nothing,” Rachel said.

The McFarland’s attorney, Jason Rieper says he can’t discuss the specifics of the case because of attorney-client privilege and also because he could be called as a witness in the criminal case.

But he does say this case was complicated by the fact that the biological parents are minors.

37 comments

  • SOUNDS FISHY...

    “It’s a two-step process. The first step is to file a termination of parental rights. That process is normally started by obtaining a release of custody from at least one of the two parents,” Genest says.

    Do we know that the minor children ever signed a release of custody? If they didn’t, than attorney Rieper would not be able to file the termination of parental rights. This story sure is missing a lot of FACTS!

    • twoblindmice

      I wondered the same thing myself, tv said if they parents signed the release. If the birth mom didn’t sign the release, sounds like paper work coudn’t be filed. If that’s what happened, that’s some bad news reporting!

  • sketchy story...

    “Any parent that signed the release, there’s 96 hours to change their mind. For any reason. If they fail to change their mind in those 96 hours they can ask the court to revoke their release, but at that point they have to show what’s called good cause,” Genest added.

    HERE IT IS AGAIN! “any parent that signed the release”…sounds like the parents maybe didn’t sign the release…hhmmmmmm, reporters GET ALL THE FACTS FIRST!

  • twoblindmice

    I dunno…I’m questioning the whole thing; lots of parts to the story are missing. I think the underlying fact is “did birth mom or dad sign the release.” If not, doesn’t sound like paperwork could be filed. This morning’s news report said the adoptive parents had to wait 3 months plus another 31 days, now today they’re saying 96 hours? This sounds awfully weird to me…

  • changing story...

    Yesterday you reported this

    In Iowa, the birth mother has three months and then one additional 31-day probationary period to change her mind about giving up her baby.

  • Kate Flanery

    being adopted myself my heart breaks for the McFarlands. My birth mother at 23 couldn’t have raised me so I have no clue how a 16 yr old who kept changing her mind could have raised a little boy let alone deaf in one ear. I would be seriously suing the attorney who should have done what the law said to do NOT what he thought was his so called job was to do. I wonder how many other people he has messed up adoptions with something like this. Not sure how the adoption was going to be if closed or open but if it was open it was not like this birth mom wasn’t ever going to see that little boy again. Because of negligent on the teenage parents not ready to parent…she will have to live with this sad occasion for the rest of her life. I am sorry if I sound a little cold but being adopted at birth and given a better life than I would have had..adoption holds a place in my heart.

    • RoccoBoss

      @Kate Flanery – you can’t sue an attorney when the law requires a 3 month waiting period before termination can take place. Yesterday, the news said there is a 3 month + potential 31 day waiting period, now today they’re saying something different.

      http://whotv.com/2014/04/23/adoption-twist-three-mothers-mourning-infants-death/

      2nd to last paragraph: In Iowa, the birth mother has three months and then one additional 31-day probationary period to change her mind about giving up her baby.

      Maybe the focus should be on changing the law so that the time-frame to change one’s mind is significantly less, and also so this doesn’t happen again to another innocent child.

  • Susan

    This is not the first bad thing that has come to surface about this attorney. A similar incident happened with my sosters case when she hired Jason Rieper. He does not know wht he is doing half the time. Also, court records show that he was arrested and served time in jail for child endangerment and domestic abuse. I wouldn’t want the “Grimm Rieper “to represent me in anything…. Sketchy past and would not chance it.

    • Daisysmom

      People who have legit criminal charges can’t practice law in Iowa.

      Anyone can file a case, but you have to go to court to this thing called a hearing, and you have to have this stuff called evidence. If you don’t, case closed.

      Susan-I heard you deal drugs and use minors to engage in sexual activities; I read it online, must be true.

      • Susan

        Daisysmom- there had to be some sort of evidence to warrant an arrest and to keep someone in jail overnight… Let alone two nights. There had to be something there… And if not? Ok. Also- if by ” online” you are referring to the Iowa Judicial Systems- Iowa Courts Online? Yes, that is where ” online” I found this information. I was not posting heresay, but an actual court documented case that listed him as defendant and references a $6500 Bond he paid and time served in Polk county jail. Yup… Here say will land you in jail. .. ;) ha!

    • LolLolLol

      Did anyone else notice that the 10pm news changed to Angry with Attorney” but the 5pm news said “Blame Attorney”?? Interesting.

    • daisysmom

      “Susan”- I searched online, per your information, and it says the case was dismissed. I also did a search on the Plaintiff Danette Rieper (aka. “Susan”) and found that she’s had two attempted foreclosures (in recent history), she changed a child’s last name to Rieper in 2004, has two small claims judgments against her (in recent history), her paycheck is currently being garnished due to one of these judgments, Jason sued her for what appears to be a contempt action for monies owed to him, and I also found out (by Googling her name) that she’s a West Des Moines TEACHER.

      Between someone that has had one DISMISSED case filed against him, or a teacher that has multiple cases and JUDGMENTSfiled against her, I would take my chances any day with the lawyer thank you very much!

      BTW: “here say” is spelled “hearsay” :)

      May God forgive you for your selfishness by using this as a platform to ‘get back’ at your ex husband. Spiteful.

      • Susan

        Daisysmom- I feel bad for whoever this Danette lady is you speak of. You want to point a finger at me for airing out some dirty laundry, but what did you just do to this Danette? Hypocrite.My name is Susan and I am a trauma nurse here is DSM. My husband and I live in Urbandale and have been happily married for nearly 18 years. I have impeccable credit (thank you-no foreclosures here). My sister happens to be a prior client of Mr. Rieper. After many signs that things were not being handled appropriately, she decided to hire a different attorney. The new attorney immediately noticed that Mr. Rieper had improperly filed certain documents, as well as forgetting to file a certain document altogether. I am not getting into specifics as to protect my sisters identity, but I assure you that it was a mistake to hire him. His retainer was cheaper than some of the more experienced attorneys (I believe he has only been licensed for 3 years) but I guess that is the lesson learned…you get what you pay for. I have to apologize that I must have typed too fast on my iphone. Hear say = hearsay. I was in a rush to finish typing before starting my 11 pm night shift at the hospital. It is apparent that you must be friends or related to this attorney (or possible BE the attorney), so I can see why you would be on the defense. I apologize to have hurt your feelings. However, you probably should apologize to whoever this “Danette” is. I am sure she will be ever so happy to see you posted her personal information in this comments section. Sounds like you have some “spite” yourself? I guess more will come to head and the truth will all come out. I would not be surprised If there is a Malpractice suit filed.The girls mother reported this morning that her daughter was ready to sign the papers and Mr. Rieper failed to send them to her. If he would have followed through with his job then the baby may still be protected and alive.Everything is always a speculation, but I know that my sister had a horrible experience using him, so that is all the truth that I know first hand. This is the first time I have ever began to comment on an article online. I immediately recognized the attorney name and all I could think of was how much grief my sister experienced by making the same mistake of hiring him recently.

  • Jean

    I just watched coverage of Sonja and Erin’s interview with this young mother. I cannot begin to explain how wrong this coverage was. Do you two think this was handled well? As emotional as this story is, you both lost your professionalism and probably helped the mother (child herself), by attacking her. Nothing will bring this child back unfortunately. Not even your shoddy attempts at journalism. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    • AE

      Um, watch a different channel if you dont want to hear the truth. That brat wanted to get interviewed to defend herself with no ground to stand on. If shes big-girl enough to get pregnant then she can be big-girl enough to face the consequences of putting herself first and Rachel’s son second.

  • Jenny Symonds

    I Cannot Express My Disappointment For The Poor JournalismAnd Borderline Unprofessionalism On Display During The Airing Of This Story. Shame On You For Exploiting This 16 Year Old Birth Mother- A Child Herself- And The Couple Who Adopted This Baby… All Of Which Are Beyond Distraught. Not Only is The Content Of This Story Inappropriate But The Way In Which It Was Reported, Cold And Unfeeling Is Disappointing.

    • JJ Smith-Whey

      Did you notice that channel 8 hasn’t aired the same story? I’m really starting to question the validity of this whole situation. It seems like channel 13 is up to no good, otherwise why wouldn’t channel 8 air the same? I’m thinking you may have a point. And the 16yr old, awful. Just bad journalism! I wonder which reporter will be sued over this!

      • Rebecca Garrett

        I am Rachel’s mother and I have talked to several reporters that wanted the sstory. One of them explained to me that the person that gets the story / interview first has some kind of priority that is an unwritten rule that all tv reporters respect and adhere to.

  • AE

    Excellent journalism is the truth and they told it. Rachel is my friend and their son was taken from them and given to a child who took him back out of spite because she wasn’t center of Rachel and Heidi’s world anymore, Gabriel was. He was loved and cherished with Rachel and Heidi and some kind of trophy to this other girl. She put on her facebook page that she took him back because she felt used! Rachel and Heidi were cheated and I dont care how old this girl was, she was a selfish girl and her own words are what were reported and how that made her look was her own fault.

    • Jenny Symonds

      I Don’t Disagree With YoI At All! It Was the Manner In Which The Story Was Delivered That Felt Like Exploitation All The Way Around. Sad, Unfortunate And Heart Breaking Situation For Your Friends. And Everyone Involved.

  • Rebecca Garrett

    Just for the record, my daughter and her wife supported markeya by taking her groceries so that she and the baby maintained good nutrition. They took the birth mother to her dr appts. and took the girl and her mother out to eat after every appt. They were supportive in every possible way. Markeya would call my daughter at work and ask for a ride to her boyfriend’s house. Markeya admitted that she smoked through her entire pregnancy and was exposed to smoking dope on a daily basis. She and her mother were nearly evicted, guess who paid their rent– my daughter. She used and manipulated my daughter for months. Markeyas mother complained about having to stay at the hospital when markeya was in labor. It interfered with her plans of getting drunk. After gabe was born markeya apologized to Rachel and Heidi for her son being so ugly. When she was visiting gabe at Rachel and Heidi’s home she asked Rachel what gabe was going to call her since he would refer to them as mom. Rachel replied,”what would like him to call you?, and her reply was thug nasty! Does this girl and her family sound as if they deserve any sympathy at all? and I ask you– who was exploited? They would have destroyed gabe had he lived to be raised by them. Think about justice and think some more!!

    • hairpinbarbie

      @ Rebecca – my heart goes out to you and your daughters. I hope that they can help change the law so this does not happen in the future. The waiting period is too long. I read that birth mom can sign documents 72hrs post birth but if she doesn’t sign, there is a mandatory 3 month plus an additional 31 day waiting period. That is too long and the law needs to be changed. No one could have forced birth mom to sign those papers, but I think most people would agree that 3 months plus is too long for an adoption.

    • sweetmay

      First of all I feel so bad for your daughter and her wife!! this is a nightmare! It makes me ILL ANGRY how some people is trying to portrait this girl as a victim when her own MOTHER was the one behind arranging this adoption, it was a private adoption! were your daughter and her wife were supporting her~ she did not wanted the baby for 9 months plus 3 months after birth and then she has a “change of mind” and makes the baby so she can AND QUOTE “sit and watch law and order” all day! she handles herself in a very VERY nasty way, Google her name to see her in a bar sticking her tonge out holding the baby!…I hate what happened to this baby, but I feel no simpaty for this girl, I think she, and her mom, manipulated the situation in their advantage, and then probably realized that keeping the baby they would get more food stamps and FIP! ugh I am sorry but I am so mad on how this has being handled! the laws need to protect the adoptive parents from being used like this!!

  • Karen Nissly

    This is a tragic story on so many levels! So many people grieving and baby Gabriel lost his life. As the owner of a state licensed adoption agency (Graceful Adoptions), this situation could have and should have been avoided if the state adoption laws were followed. Adoptions are very risky if you don’t work with professions who know and understand the specific and complicated laws that apply.

  • Enough with the drama

    This story is sad not as much because there is an infant death to grieve over. It’s sad because there is so much drama and finger-pointing between these women. Who’s the best mother, who said what, whether the attorney did his job, how the system is broken, how can I use this opportunity as a platform. I wonder what will happen at the funeral? Cat fight! Better have a news crew on hand because it will be sad…

    • Lambchop Warrior

      The ‘drama” is more sad to you than the dead baby? Really?

      Your “cat fight” comment is patronizing. It implies nothing can be so serious between women that warrants fighting. Fights can take place in many places and in many forms; rest assured this is a cause well worth a fight as it may save the lives of other children in the future. There are also seriously aggrieved parties in this case who all deserve their day in court.

      The public will pay for the prosecution of these hood rats who couldn’t be trusted with a sunny day, much less a baby. The public’s interest in this case is not merely sensational. It is financial, part of legal transparency, and bad laws that cause harm should be brought before the public for review. What is done by ‘the law’ is done in our names and we have a right and responsibility to push for a change if that law is inadequate. The media brings the case to the public. That’s how that works. (Jerry Springer format not withstanding…if that was what you meant, I agree.)

      The actions of the bio-mother are appalling. The actions of the bio father are appalling. (Where’s a drone when you need one?)

      One could make a compelling argument for forced sterilization using these two soulless sacks of meat.

      I hope the adopting couple in this case will find peace in their hearts, heal themselves and move on to adopt another child. They sound like they will be good parents and there are so many children who need good homes.

      Peace and well wishes to all, and the comfort of knowing others truly feel for you to those who grieve. .

  • do ur job

    You talk of changing or speeding the adoption process, but that doesn’t fix the obvious need for parenting classes especially for young fathers or step “fathers” who are not emotionally equipped or have an example
    of how to be a father.

    You speak of the birth mother horridly; however, youhave 20+ years of maturity(kind of). Babies having babies is rarely a good combo. Apparently, the birthmother had intentions of a relationship with her baby otherwise she wouldn’t have had continued visitation. Maybe the adoptive parents and birth mother should have had counseling and establish boundaries BEFORE the baby came.

    • Lambchop Warrior

      You say speeding up the adoption process won’t change the need for parenting classes.

      Did I miss something? If the 2 having a baby give the baby up for adoption they would have no need of parenting classes.

      Parenting classes sound like a good idea but generally the teens having babies are the ones who don’t do school/class successfully anyway.Do you think a government agency or some church could create a class that would really grab a teenaged boy by his lapels and turn him into a responsible parent?? No class speeds up the maturation process, which is the one thing that would help.There is no class that could fix a teenagers emotional problems or personality issues, some of which might be one of the many gifts from abuse that keep on giving. Generation after generation.

      Sometimes people can be very indirect with their aggression. Teens who have babies often resent the attention the baby gets and the interruption the baby causes in their lives and bad things happen,…. usually to the baby. Surprise!

      A commenter further back noted that the bio mother seemed jealous and upset she was no longer the center of the adopting couples attention. This sounds right to me. Her “intentions of a relationship” likely included mooching so much off of this couple they would finally adopt her, too.

      Also, I would like to point out reference your post it is hard to establish boundaries with people who don’t know what those are. Establish them BEFORE the baby was born? How, exactly? When she was eating the groceries they bought, living in apartments they paid for, getting medical things they paid for,? Or when she was using them like her personal taxi all because she had a baby in her and they were trying to protect that baby?

      Reality eats nice ideas for breakfast.

      .

  • Tracy C.

    My daughter had a baby at 16. Because she was a minor, I had to sign all paperwork including papers concerning child support. This was 15 years ago. What are the laws now I wonder? I feel so bad for these poor women for all that they went through to end up with such a tragic end. My heart goes out to them.

  • the real deal

    Wow! To Daisy’s mom or whomever you are, it is obvious the lawyer in question is someone close to you and that you felt compelled to use this blog as a forum to take a stand in his defense. However, you failed miserably. The arguments you brought up in his defense were indeed sound, but you killed your credibility as soon as you began to react in an overly defensive manner by reducing your self to “Jerry Springer type” back-and-forth banter. Educated people do recognize the difference between factual evidence and emotionally- driven comments designed to redirect one’s attention from the issue at hand. It’s a shame you dont and were not wise enough to keep your emotions and comments in check so you could have actually been beneficial to the lawyer or others seeking facts in this story. Instead, you fell for their antics and began to give ammunition to the mudslingers by airing additional information about this lawyers private personal life, rather than steering back toward his business actions, which are what is in question here. HE WILL NOT THANK YOU FOR THAT.

    No one person or law can bare the sole blame in this situation. THE FACT IS ……..EVERYONE INVOLVED MADE SOME SORT OF MISTAKE AT SOME POINT OR ANOTHER HERE EXCEPT FOR THE INFANT WHO LOST HIS LIFE!

  • Mark

    To The Real Deal: Very well said. Nobody could have stated that better. All he did was show some true colors and made an embarrassment of her family. ( or friend)

  • alli

    Poor baby. Rest in piece little one. You shall live in the hearts of those who loved you and will thus never die or be forgotten. In the arms of an angel, fly away from here.

  • Legalissue

    It may be that the biological parents couldn’t sign a waiver because they lacked legal capacity to do so as unemancipated minors (depends on state law, but in many states people under 18 lack legal capacity to sign contracts/waivers). In some states, an adult parent or court-appointed guardian may be required to sign on their behalf, and a hearing may be required to approve the waiver. Of course, any lawyer specializing in adoption should know the procedure in his/her state and had whatever paperwork is required filed as soon as possible–this is hardly the first case of a bio parent changing his/her mind.

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