Birth Father Speaks In High-Profile Cross Country Custody Battle

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Photo: Video by NewsChannel5.com

Birth Father Speaks In High-Profile Cross Country Custody Battle

CREATED May 22, 2014
by Nick Beres

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - An ugly cross-country custody battle has heated up. For the first time, NewsChannel 5 has heard from the birth father of the child at the center of it all and he's suing, among others, the once-adoptive parents for defamation.

Nine-year-old Sonya grew up knowing Dave and Kim Hodgin as her foster parents and eventually adoptive parents. Now, the Hodgins have lost Sonya and they want her back.

"Sonya doesn't deserve the pain that this court and DCS is giving her," said Dave Hodgin after a court hearing last week.

A judge had just denied the Hodgins request to have the state bring Sonya back to Dickson County. She is now with her birth father John McCaul in Nebraska where DCS officials said she belongs, for now.

"She's very happy. We have a very large family and she is loved and she is bonding very well with us," said McCaul in an exclusive phone interview from Nebraska.

This was the first time NewsChannel 5 has heard from McCaul since January, when Sonya was temporarily placed with him in Nebraska.

McCaul went to prison in 2006 and the Hodgins adopted Sonya. He got out early and fought for his parental rights. The state ultimately overturned the adoption. The Hodgins were understandably devastated and have appealed the decision.

Now, McCaul has entered the legal fray.

"Mr. McCaul hired me because he has been defamed so viciously," said Carrie Gasaway, McCaul's attorney.

McCaul and Gasaway have filed a lawsuit against seventeen people, including the Hodgins, for defamation.

"I have a whole book printed of what was said about him online that was untrue," said Gasaway.

McCaul said he's received death threats in recent weeks and he fears for the well-being of his daughter under what has now become a national media spotlight.

"It's been very hard now that it's gone national," said McCaul. "We kind of try to just prepare our daughter for these types of things. And it really changes our way of life.”

Sonya remains in DCS custody while in Nebraska, but is currently completing a six-month trial home visit with her birth father.

The Hodgins have denied defaming McCaul and have not been linked to any death threats.

They issued a statement that read in part: "Our focus remains solely on Sonya's well-being and her rights. We are not against Sonya having a relationship with her birth family. We are, however, devastated with how our daughter has been treated."

The Dickson County Juvenile Court Judge will hear the case again in June.

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