Police Charge Five With Plot To Sell Infant Girl
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Pennsylvania prosecutors said Thursday that two lawyers, a Kansas couple and a Coudersport woman have been charged with a scheme to pay the woman to let the couple adopt her infant daughter.
The charges were filed nearly two years after a Potter County judge halted the adoption proceedings.
Court records say Coudersport lawyers Jarett Rand Smith, 43, and his former wife, Donna Marie Albright- Smith, 38, helped arrange the adoption for Jerome R. Smith, 47, and Eileen Rifka Smith, 42, of Overland Park, Kan. They are Jarett Smith’s brother and sister-in-law.
The mother, Krista Samme Eveland, 24, of Coudersport, said in a tearful phone interview Thursday she did not try to sell her child, has done nothing wrong and feels deceived about the circumstances of the adoption. She currently has custody of the girl, now 2 years old.
“There were things that were suspicious about the whole situation,’’ Eveland said. “Every time I came to (Jarett Smith or Albright- Smith) about something I felt was wrong, they always tried to reassure me.’’
All five are charged with conspiracy and dealing in infant children. Jarett Smith is also charged with dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities, while the other four also face criminal solicitation charges.
Bill Hebe, a lawyer for the Kansas couple, said they expect to be vindicated.
“Jerome and Eileen did not pay any money to buy a baby, did not authorize anyone to offer or pay any money for a baby,’’ Hebe said. “They were excited about an adoption and relied upon counsel to handle the adoption properly and obviously were extremely disappointed when it fell through.’’
Jarett Smith’s lawyer, George Stenhach, said his client maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court.
A phone listing for Albright Smith’s law practice was not in service, and a home listing could not be located. District court officials said she did not have a lawyer on record.
A state police probable cause affidavit, filed with all five sets of charging documents, gave the following account of what authorities believe occurred:
Potter County President Judge John Leete informed investigators in June 2009 that a local lawyer had told him that Jarett Smith and Albright-Smith had unsuccessfully tried to buy a client’s baby for $20,000, and that the lawyer had heard they were able to purchase Eveland’s daughter, who had then just been born.
Albright-Smith told an investigator a month later that she approached Eveland and the girl’s biological father about adoption, they were receptive, and she told Eveland she could be reimbursed for reasonable pregnancy expenses.
According to Albright- Smith, Jarett Smith paid part of Eveland’s rent, gave her gas money, bought her phone cards and subsidized her groceries. She also said she gave Eveland $400 from Eileen Smith after the child was born, part of which was used to buy tattoos for Eveland and Eveland’s mother.
Eveland said Thursday her mother had the child’s initials tattooed on her back, and Eveland added a heart to an existing ankle tattoo.
“It was a moment where we wanted to remember my daughter and know she was never going to be forgotten and know that we loved her,’’ Eveland said.
Police said Eveland told them she was supposed to get a payoff of $4,500-$6,000 after the adoption was final.
Eveland said Thursday she was concerned the matter might affect custody of her two daughters.
“I’m not a bad person, I’m not a bad mother and I definitely never tried to sell my child,’’ she said. “Every time I pass through town everybody looks at me like I’m a monster.’’
Eveland, who works as a personal care attendant, said she was open to the adoption because she was unsure if she could handle a second child.
“ Even abortion had crossed my mind,’’ she said. “I took the chance that this baby did not do anything wrong and she deserves her life, whether it be with me or someone else.’’
Police said Jerome Smith told them last week that he was unaware any money was to be paid for the child, and that before the adoption, the only thing he knew about the girl was that she was white.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board’s online records indicate Jarett Smith’s law license was put on three years’ probation earlier this month, based on a series of problems representing clients. He also was ordered to undergo an evaluation to see if he has a substance abuse or gambling problem.
Those online records also say a disciplinary proceeding is pending against Albright- Smith.