Same-sex couple win $4m after adopted newborn returned to parents is killed

A US family has been awarded more than $4 million after the newborn they thought they had adopted was returned to its birth parents and then murdered weeks later.

Rachel and Heidi McFarland say they do not expect to see any of the money awarded by an Iowa court after they sued their own lawyer Jason Rieper for negligence, but that they wanted to make sure no other adoptive parents suffered the same fate.

A court agreed Mr Rieper had failed to have basic paperwork filled out to allow the adoption, which left the new parents powerless when the baby’s biological mother Markeya Atkins changed her mind.

Mr Rieper disputed that claim.

Five weeks after baby Gabriel was returned to Ms Atkins, Heidi and Rachel learned the newborn had been murdered on their local news.

“We had him for 78 days. We loved him from the first idea... We cut his little mohawk off,” Rachel told People.

“All we have left of him is his hair, and little did we know, that would be all we had left of him.”

His biological father Drew James Weehler-Smith pleaded guilty to the murder after medical examiners declared Gabriel had died of head trauma.

He was 17 when he killed Gabriel and 20 when he was told he would spent the next 50 years in prison.

Rachel McFarland told People they were in the delivery room when Gabriel was born to Ms Atkins, a former co-worker of hers who had agreed to give up the baby to the same-sex couple.
Rachel even cut the cord and the pair named him before taking him home.

Months later Mr Rieper informed them the birth mother had changed her mind and there was nothing they could do.

"He said there is nothing left for us to do: She wants him back and you have to give him back," Rachel told People.