A Missouri judge has terminated the parental rights of a Guatemalan woman who's been contesting her son's 2008 adoption by a Carthage couple.
The decision in a 64-page ruling comes a year after the Missouri Supreme Court ordered a new trial, saying the initial adoption didn't follow state adoption laws.
The Kansas City Star, KCTV5's reporting partner, reports that Greene County Judge David Jones ruled Wednesday that Encarnacion Bail Romero abandoned her son and ended her parental rights. The decision clears the way for the couple, Seth and Melinda Moser of Carthage, to adopt the child again.
The Mosers adopted the boy in 2008 after Romero got caught up in an immigration sweep at a poultry plant. She's been seeking custody since being released from jail on immigration violations.
Her lawyer, Curtis Woods, said he'll appeal.
"Somebody's heart was going to be broken," Woods told KCTV5. "Unfortunately, today it was Encarnacion who had her heart broken."
The boy will turn five in October. He hasn't seen his biological mother since he was an infant.
The U.S. government has issued Romero a work visa that allows her to remain the country legally as the case winds its way through the courts.
In May 2007, Romero was arrested along with another 100 people at a poultry plant Her son was 7 months old.
Romero asked her sister to care for the child. Romero eventually pleaded guilty to identity theft and served time at a federal prison in West Virginia.
The United States government did not move to deport her even though she was in the country illegally.
While she was in federal custody, Romero's sister and brother-in-law turned the boy over to another couple, saying they were too busy looking after their own three children to care for their nephew.
That couple wanted to adopt Carlos, but his aunt refused. Eventually, the couple gave Carlos to the Mosers who in October 2007 filed to have his mother's rights severed and got custody of the boy.
The adoption was approved in 2008 by a judge in Jasper County. The mother said she couldn't read English and didn't understand the paperwork sent to her in prison. She contests the adoption.
She was released from prison in February 2009.
In January 2011, the Missouri Supreme Court issued a 4-3 decision. Three justices said the mother should receive Carlos back, but the majority ordered a new trial. Romero's previous attorney allegedly provided ineffective counsel.
The second trial was held in a different county before a different judge who ruled that Romero failed to keep sufficient contact with the child while she was in federal custody. The child is now called Jamison by the Mosers.
Romero has two older children in Guatemala. Those children are with family members and Romero is sending money back for their care, her attorney said.
The attorney for the Mosers said if Romero were given the boy and deported that she would return to Guatemala and abandon him there. The attorney said Romero would then return to the United States to work illegally.
Romero was first deported in June 2005.
"I think it's really vindication for a lot of people," said Joe Hensley, the Mosers' attorney.
The boy's adopted parents have said they have formed a close bond with the child.
"We've tried to do everything we can to raise our boy as our son. And he's our son. He's been with us that long," Melinda Moser said.
But Woods said this is about protecting a mother's rights.
"Even if you're here without documents and you're quote unquote illegal, the law does not say one of your punishments is we take your children from you and let American couples adopt them," Woods said.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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