An Iowa couple was awarded $3.25 million last week after their adopted son was reclaimed by his biological parents and then murdered.
Rachel and Heidi McFarland, of Des Moines, Iowa, sued their attorney, Jason Rieper, for malpractice after Rieper claimed the biological parents signed release-of-custody papers when they didn’t, according to the Independent. The couple claimed Rieper acted negligently in not getting the child’s biological parents to sever their parental rights, Rare.us reported.
“We coached her through labor,” Rachel said of Atkins, according to People. “I cut the umbilical cord. He was in our arms and care the second he was born.”
Five weeks later, Gabriel was shaken to death by his father, 17-year-old Drew James Weehler-Smith. According to People, Rachel and Heidi found out about Gabriel’s death while watching the local news. Smith was convicted of second-degree murder in 2015 and sentenced to 50 years in jail, the Des Moines Register reported.
Rachel and Heidi filed suit against their attorney in 2014, and a verdict was reached Aug. 1
“The release-of-custody never got signed by either birth parent,” Rachel told People. “Obviously, our child and us weren’t a priority to (Rieper). We are just happy he was found negligent. That was what our goal was. We will not see any money from this.”
But Rieper’s attorney wants to challenge it, according to People.
“I don’t believe he did anything inappropriate at all,” David L. Brown, Rieper’s attorney said. “And I think if he forced the issue and forced her to sign away her rights, I think someone could make a case that it was inappropriate.”
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.