Couple to give child to biological parents today

August 02, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Clutching a baby doll named Brie and a new suitcase containing her favorite "Winnie the Pooh" tape, 2-year-old Jessica DeBoer was scheduled to say goodbye today to the little house in Ann Arbor and leave behind Jan and Roberta DeBoer, who have raised her since she was days old.

Today, a court-appointed intermediary was to surrender Jessica to her biological parents, Dan and Cara Schmidt of Blairstown, Iowa. The Schmidts have battled to get her back since she was weeks old.

Jessica had been told she is going to Iowa, but she didn't learn until yesterday that she would leave today, said Suellyn Scarnecchia, the DeBoers' attorney.

"Most of her things are packed up. They have taken down her bed," Ms. Scarnecchia said yesterday. "She has a beautiful new baby doll named Brie and a new suitcase with all the things she'll need for her first night, including Winnie the Pooh's 'The Blustery Day' videotape. It's what she likes to see when she's settling down."

Last month, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the toddler returned to the Schmidts by today. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to intervene.

Jessica's last day in her Ann Arbor surroundings began yesterday with a two-hour visit from the Schmidts at the DeBoers' home, under the watchful eye of court-appointed therapists, private security guards and Ann Arbor police.

A tearful Roberta DeBoer left shortly after the Schmidts arrived. Although the pain was evident in his face, Jan DeBoer cheerfully played with Jessica and the Schmidts in the back yard and later in the house.

Ms. Scarnecchia said Roberta DeBoer spent several hours this weekend writing down a detailed list of Jessica's daily activities for the Schmidts.

"Things like when she goes to bed, what bedtime stories she likes to hear," Ms. Scarnecchia said. "It was extremely hard for Robbie to do, but she said she would do it for Jessica. Helping to compile this list, I realized what a wonderful 2-year-old life" Jessica has had.

Ms. Scarnecchia said the DeBoers planned to spend a quiet evening with Jessica and relatives yesterday, their last night together.

The transfer was to take place today at an undisclosed location around Ann Arbor under tight security. Both sides in the custody battle say they have received disturbing phone calls.

Marian Faupel, the Schmidts' attorney, said the couple is looking forward to completing today's transfer. They will go into seclusion rather than return to Blairstown, she said.

The DeBoers have kept Jessica through a series of appeals in Iowa and Michigan. Last year, the Iowa Supreme Court awarded the child to Dan Schmidt. Last month, the state Supreme Court upheld the decision.

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