Judge pushes pace of Baby Tamia case

Relates to:
Date: 2005-02-15

Harvey woman wants daughter returned to her

Jonathan Lipman
Daily Southtown

A Harvey woman trying to reclaim her baby from a Utah adoption agency said she was hopeful Monday after a Cook County judge pushed for quick resolution of her case.

Cook County Presiding Judge Michael Murphy warned attorneys he would hold hearings every day if necessary to resolve the question of who should have custody of Tamia, now 5 months old.

"This case will take priority, and if you can't do that, don't take the case," Murphy told attorneys.

Attorneys say A Cherished Child Adoption Agency flew McDonald, 20, from Chicago to Utah on Dec. 2, had her sign away her parental rights and flew her back within 24 hours. Such a quick turnaround on an adoption is illegal in Illinois.

In Utah, McDonald was running a 102-degree fever, crying uncontrollably and suffering from severe post-partum depression, her attorneys say. When she told the agency she changed her mind on the adoption, the agency's director allegedly threatened to leave her stranded in Utah with no way home.

No one in Illinois even knows who has the baby.

"(The agency) told me (the adoptive parents) were from Utah, but I've learned since that a lot of the other things they told me turned out not to be true," McDonald said. "I just hope the family's not scaring or harming the baby."

McDonald's lawyers asked Murphy for an injunction Monday, saying the baby should be immediately returned because Illinois state officials have not approved the inter-state transfer of custody to the unknown couple, as required by law.

Cherished Child attorney Denise Erlich said she didn't want to argue about that or anything in court because she believes the case should be heard in Utah instead of Illinois.

Murphy agreed to decide jurisdiction first, but he didn't want to wait, trying to schedule a hearing for today.

Murphy and the lawyers eventually settled on waiting a week for the next hearing. The judge warned attorneys he would rule on jurisdiction immediately and then move on to the bigger issues of Tamia's fate.

"Have your witnesses lined up," he said.

"The faster he goes, the better for me and Tamia," McDonald said.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan may get involved in the case. Lawyers from her office were at the hearing Monday to observe, and the judge asked them to reach the attorney general in Utah to find out what that office thinks about the case.

"We believe the state (of Illinois) has an interest in this matter. We have not taken an official position yet," Assistant Attorney General Barbara Greenspan said. "We'll make a decision prior to the 18th."

Cherished Child has not returned calls for comment, and attorney Erlich did not speak to reporters.

Jonathan Lipman may be reached at jlipman@dailysouthtown.com or (312) 782-1286.


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