The Army drill instructor whose daughter was adopted without his knowledge is "elated" now that a judge has ordered her return, and he hopes to meet soon with the family that has been raising the toddler, the man’s attorney told FoxNews.com.
Terry Achane, a 31-year-old soldier now based in South Carolina, hopes the end is near for a nightmare that began in early 2011, when little Teleah's mother, Tira Bland, put the baby up for adoption and didn't tell Achane after they split up. When he finally learned what had happened from his ex-wife, he launched a legal battle that culminated in 4th District Judge Darold McDade's 48-page ruling Monday that the baby belongs with her father.
“He’s completely elated at the judge’s ruling,” attorney Mark Wiser told FoxNews.com. “He felt the judge could not rule any other way.”
Achane now hopes the girl’s adoptive parents, Jared and Kristi Frei, will visit him in South Carolina to make the girl’s transition as easy as possible. McDade has given the couple 60 days to return the child, Wiser said.
McDade, who faulted the Adoption Center of Choice, which brokered the adoption, for refusing to tell Achane where the baby was living, has scheduled a Jan. 16 hearing in Provo, Utah.
“It is our hope that the child will be returned to the father at that time and he’ll take her back to South Carolina,” he said. “He is willing and has made offers to the adoptive family to go to South Carolina. He’s looking for their support. They can be part of the solution or they can be part of the problem.”
“He’s completely elated at the judge’s ruling. He felt the judge could not rule any other way.”
- Attorney Mark Wiser
The Freis have filed a request to stay McDade’s decision, which could delay the girl’s transition if granted, Wiser said.
“We’re expecting the judge to deny that,” he said.
Achane, who is now divorced and has only met his daughter twice, was unavailable for comment, according to Wiser. But the Army serviceman told the Salt Lake Tribune last week that he was concerned about the “precious moments” he would be unable to get back.
"I am not a very religious person," he told the newspaper last week. "But ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ If they prolong it, that is more time away from my daughter. There are precious moments I can’t get back ... It has been a year and a half now. There is no court order saying they have the right to my child. I just won the case. I want to get my daughter and raise my daughter."
Achane, according to the judge’s ruling, accepted a position as a drill instructor at South Carolina’s Fort Jackson in late 2010 and was ordered to report for duty no later than Feb. 1, 2011. Achane and the girl’s mother, Tira Bland, soon began having marital problems shortly thereafter and she grew concerned that she would become a single mother with two children.
Bland then suggested the couple either pursue an adoption or an abortion, both of which Achane rejected. After considering a move to South Carolina, Bland later told Achane she wished to stay in Texas with her relatives for the birth of their daughter. Achane had planned to return for the birth, with the new family joining him in South Carolina afterward.
Bland would later proceed with an adoption, according to the judge’s ruling, contacting the Adoption Center of Choice, which brought Bland to Utah to give birth.
Wiser said he equally blames Bland and the adoptive agency for Achane’s anguish.
“She was not telling the truth,” Wiser said of Bland. “Now, with that, the adoption agency equally ran with this and knew this was a married family.”
James Webb, executive director of the Adoption Center of Choice, declined comment when reached by FoxNews.com.
“There’s a lot of facts that need to be brought out and litigating them in the court of public opinion is a bit challenging,” he said, without elaborating.
The Freis, meanwhile, who maintain a blog detailing the custody battle, did not return a message seeking comment. The couple has raised more than $22,000 in donations for adoption-related costs and attorney fees via the website.
“If you find that you are in a position to offer any amount toward helping us cover these expenses, we cannot convey to you the gratitude, appreciation and tender mercy we will hold for your offering,” the website reads. “Truly, any amount will help.”