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Biological Mother Taking Child Home After Adoptive Parents Slain

January 5, 1989

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) _ The shooting death of a couple a few feet from their adoptive baby’s crib has meant a second chance for the 18-year-old biological mother, who said Wednesday she is ready now to raise the child.

Tracy Medeiros successfully fought to regain custody of Travis, the son she gave up at birth nine months ago.

As she prepared him for a trip home to Massachusetts, she met Wednesday with social service workers, attended a parenting class here and talked with a child psychologist.

″Now I know I’m ready. I’ve grown up a lot,″ said Medeiros.

″She’s a gutsy little kid. She’s young and that’s the big thing against her,″ said her attorney, Barbara Rohan. ″She’s determined to do it. She’s really determined.″

Pregnant at 17, Medeiros decided to give up the baby after her boyfriend left her. A former boyfriend introduced Medeiros to his cousin Tasia Stephens and her husband, William, of Novato.

Married for 15 years and owners of successful hair salons and video stores, Tasia, 43, and William, 45, wanted desperately to adopt a baby.

The young mother-to-be and the Stephenses grew close. Medeiros stayed at a home for teen-age mothers in nearby Santa Rosa during her pregnancy. She and the couple chose the baby’s name together and the couple was present at his birth.

The Stephenses paid her medical and travel expenses, and kept the baby even though the formal adoption process was delayed by a backlog of cases. Medeiros planned to visit the baby and the Stephenses during the yearend holidays.

Then Novato police called her in Massachusetts to say the Stephenses had been found shot to death in their bed Dec. 14. Travis, hungry but unharmed, was found in his crib, where he had been unattended for at least 24 hours, authorities estimated.

Suddenly, Medeiros said, the safe, secure future she arranged for her son was uncertain.

″My world was totally crushed,″ she said. ″I thought, ‘What am I going to do with the baby?’ I thought, ’I love him, I want him to be with me.‴

A Marin County judge placed the baby in a foster home, and Medeiros petitioned for custody. Relatives of the Stephenses argued that returning Travis to his biological mother wasn’t in his best interest.

On Tuesday, Superior Court Juvenile Commissioner Sylvia Shapiro ruled the adoption wasn’t final and Medeiros was still the baby’s legal parent. The custody agreement requires Medeiros to take parenting classes and make monthly reports about the child’s welfare so the case can be reviewed in six months.

As Medeiros prepared for the trip home, the Stephenses’ housekeeper and her boyfriend, Yolanda Segura and Zohelin Diaz, both 25-year-old Guatamalans, were arraigned on charges of murder. Police said they know of no motives.

Rohan said experts believe Travis was old enough at the time of the slayings ″to be real affected by what happened to him,″ so meetings with a child psychologist can help Medeiros detect signs of emotional problems.

Medeiros lives with her mother in Bellerica, Mass., and works at a state institution for the retarded. She has arranged full-time child care so she can continue working.

″At the time of the adoption, I was doing what I thought was best for him. Now I’m doing what’s best for him again,″ Medeiros said, adding that she was so scared during the hearing that she didn’t speak.

″I never really wanted to give him up in the first place,″ she said.

Rohan said Medeiros at first was frightened by the new situation, by the prospect of failure and by media attention, but the lawyer said she detected a growing closeness between mother and child.

″He’s a sweet, friendly little baby. He really is. He’s obviously been very loved,″ Rohan said. ″I think he’s starting to get to know her.″

Sebastopol attorney Allison Pharis, who handled the adoption, said Medeiros will ″be your basic hard-working, single mother trying to make it.″ The Stephenses’ relatives now want an amicable relationship with her, she said.

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