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Baby Richard’s Tearful Departure Echoes Jessica Case

May 1, 1995

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. (AP) _ The blond child whimpered anxiously and his small hands reached out to the only mother he had ever known, as the fight over Baby Richard ended the same as it had two years earlier for Baby Jessica.

``I saw a little boy’s life crumble,″ said Sandy Daniels, a friend of the adoptive parents identified in court papers only as John and Jane Doe.

Biological parents Otakar and Daniela Kirchner picked up the 4-year-old boy Sunday from the Does’ house in suburban Chicago. Arm in arm, they entered the home to angry shouts from more than 200 neighbors. One woman yelled, ``Monster!″

Leading up to the one-minute drama in front of the brown, split-level suburban home was the Doe’s fierce, four-year custody battle that involved the governor, the General Assembly and judges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court granted Kirchner custody in January, ruling the adoption was illegal because Kirchner had been told by the boy’s mother that the child was born dead. He had fought for his son ever since learning the truth, when the child was 57 days old.

``I’m happy to get my son,″ Kirchner told the Chicago Tribune. ``I want to retire from the media now. I’m very happy. ... Everything’s perfect. He’s OK.″

The prolonged court battle over Richard, like that over Jessica, prompted Americans to re-evaluate adoption laws in light of the best interests of the child and the rights of the biological father.

The boy’s teary departure mirrored that of Jessica, the 2-year-old Michigan girl returned to her birth parents by order of the U.S. Supreme Court. In both cases, the child was put up for adoption even though the father had not surrendered his parental rights.

Kirchner said Richard would be allowed to visit and talk with the Does.

An hour after the Kirchners arrived, Richard emerged with his adoptive parents and was turned over to Kirchner at a van driven by attorney Loren Heinemann. The boy’s adoptive father looked on with tears in his eyes.

The crowd, which had been calmed earlier by the Does’ Lutheran minister, groaned at the sound of the youngster’s whimpering, and one woman called out, ``God be with you.″

The boy’s hands stretched toward his adoptive mother as Kirchner loaded him into the van. The first stop was McDonald’s, and then on to the youngster’s new home.

A reporter with the Chicago Sun-Times, who accompanied the Kirchners, said the boy’s cries turned to laughter about 15 minutes after leaving the Does’ home. He sat on Mrs. Kirchner’s lap playing with a small toy dog.

Within moments of arriving at the Kirchners’ home, Richard called the Does’ 7-year-old biological son. ``I got Power Rangers and toys. I got lots of stuff,″ Richard said, according to the Sun-Times.

By nightfall Sunday, Richard was sitting on his new bed and asking to ``go home,″ the Sun-Times reported. With Kirchner at Richard’s side, Mrs. Kirchner told him, ``We are your parents and we love you,″ and reassured him that he could call the Does today.

Lamposts and stop signs as far as a mile from the Does’ home were festooned with powder blue ribbons _ an emblem of support for the Does. Some onlookers wore sweatshirts emblazoned with a broken heart. A sign carried by a neighbor standing in the Does’ driveway said: ``Otto: For Richard, Don’t Put A Sword Through His Heart.″

Both sides had tried to negotiate a gradual transfer process in which mental health experts would preside over the change. But that effort collapsed weeks ago amid bitter recriminations.

On Friday, Kirchner demanded that the adoptive parents turn the boy over to him within 72 hours.

Kirchner was abroad when the baby was born in March 1991. Told, incorrectly, that he had married someone else, the mother put the baby up for adoption and told Kirchner the child was dead.

When he learned the truth and began pursuing custody, a county judge ruled Kirchner was an unfit parent because he’d failed to demonstrate a reasonable degree of interest within 30 days of the boy’s birth. Kirchner and the mother have since married.

The U.S. Supreme Court twice refused to consider the Does’ case. A third motion was filed with the court last month.

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