A soldier stationed in South Korea is fighting for custody of the baby he thought was his, that his wife claimed died in childbirth but allegedly sold to another couple.
In January, Sgt Steven Garcia, 24, was told his wife Marina, 31, had given birth to their baby girl, who died during childbirth.
Sgt Garcia, from Arizona, US, had left for Seoul to serve as a patrol supervisor, believing his wife was pregnant with their child.
He was devastated to get a phone call with the news his wife had miscarried.
However a month later he was delivered another blow to learn the baby was actually a boy who was alive and allegedly sold to another couple – and he was not the child’s biological father.
“I was under the assumption the entire time that she was pregnant that I was the father,” Sgt Garcia told local TV station KVOA.
“When I found out… I was kind of in denial. I couldn’t believe what was going on.”
The plan came undone when Alex Hernandez, 33, and Leslie Morin Hernandez, 41, of Kenedy, Texas, were pulled over by police who realised the baby in their car was not theirs.
Sgt Garcia, who was adopted as a child, is fighting the couple for custody of the baby whom his family named Leo.
He said it did not make any difference to him that Leo was mot his biological son.
“My adopted father completely changed my life. Without him, I would not be where I am today.”
A GoFundMe page has been created to support Sgt Garcia’s campaign to gain custody of the infant, who was handed over to the Arizona’s Department of Child Safety and is currently in foster care.
He was granted emergency leave and flew home from Korea at his own expense, and has had eight visitations since, his cousin Shelbie Clark wrote on the crowdfunding page.
“He immediately got a lawyer and is currently fighting for little Leo. Because of the situation DSS is reluctant to hand over his son to him.
“Thus far he has spent nearly $14,000 in flights, hotel reservations, rental cars, and lawyer fees. Without help he will not be able to keep fighting for custody of his child,” she told.
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Meanwhile, Sgt Garcia’s estranged wife Marina is accused of agreeing to sell her newborn boy to the couple, and has pleaded guilty to felony of an attempted fraudulent scheme.
The Cochise County Attorney has not found evidence that any money exchanged hands between Garcia and Alex and Leslie Hernandez, who claim there was no payment.
Despite this, the couple has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit forgery and were each sentenced to four years of supervised probation.
Marina Garcia will be sentenced next month.