By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Cheryl Ann Smith and Dennis Moore met in a Phoenix nightclub in 1980, and were married in Las Vegas three months later. Almost immediately, Dennis' 8-year-old son, Jeffrey, came to live with them. Jeffrey did drugs, was a habitual runaway, and was eventually diagnosed a sociopath; the Moores committed him to psychiatric hospitals on several occasions during the time he lived with them.
So life together was challenging from the start for the Moores, who are both from working-class families.
Dennis held a series of jobs over the years, usually as a truck driver, as Cheryl was moving through the ranks at Phoenix Memorial Hospital. They had two children of their own, Jacob and Colleen, and raised them in the house they built from the ground up in Wittman -- one of the few places they could afford to buy land.
The Moores worked hard, and by the time Colleen was 10, Cheryl was ready for another child. Jacob was 14, and Jeffrey, 23, was finally out of the house. Cheryl thought a baby girl would round out the family nicely. She was making a good salary, supervising the patient accounting department at Phoenix Memorial. She had sick time, vacation time, good benefits, on-site day care at work.
Then Cheryl got $15,000 in a car accident settlement in which she sustained minor back injuries. "We were just real comfortable," she recalls. Jacob had some learning problems, but otherwise the family was happy and healthy. Colleen, a slender girl with brown eyes who belonged to the Brownies and liked baton twirling, was excited about having a baby sister. Jacob thought it was cool.
It took Cheryl a while to convince Dennis to adopt.
"At first, I wasn't too crazy about adopting a child, period, at that time in our life, but she talked me into it," Dennis recalls. Cheryl was 39 at the time and had had her tubes tied after Colleen was born. And while she could have had the procedure reversed, she knew it could be tough to get pregnant, so adoption seemed like an easier, safer option. Cheryl quickly dismissed the idea of adopting a U.S.-born child. She'd seen too many of those TV newsmagazine shows where a birth mother swoops in at the last moment and wants to keep the baby.
She called several agencies that handled foreign adoptions, and chose Dillon Southwest because "they were basically the quickest you could get a child."
Based in Scottsdale, Dillon Southwest handles only Korean adoptions, partnering with Eastern in Korea. Cheryl was impressed with her initial meetings with the agency representatives, in September 1995. The adoption would cost less than $10,000, and Dillon told her she could have a seven- or eight-month-old baby in as few as six months, once she was approved to adopt.
So Cheryl and Dennis were fingerprinted, interviewed, investigated and physically examined, and Dennis had to promise to start working toward his GED, since adoptive parents were required to have at least a high school degree. On July 8, the Moores were certified to adopt a child.
Two days later, the agency called to say there was a match. The Moores took off work to meet with Marsha Usdane, one of Dillon's directors.
Cheryl was surprised to hear that the baby was a boy. She'd checked "either" on the application, but thought she'd made her preference clear. Usdane told them it would be another three to nine months before a girl became available, so after thinking it over for a day, the Moores signed the papers for a two-month-old boy.
He looked beautiful in the snapshot Usdane showed them. Aside from a little diarrhea -- common for Korean babies who are often lactose-intolerant and don't do well on formula, away from mothers who can breast-feed -- he was healthy, the Moores were told.
And that was important. Not just to Cheryl and Dennis, who had requested a healthy baby on their application, but also to Dillon Southwest. Dillon social worker Kerri Burton, who interviewed the Moores at their home before recommending certification, wrote, "We selected the Moores for this baby because since they were an older couple with older children and had difficulty with oldest son and seemed at risk for difficulty with Jacob as he entered teens, this baby had no risk factors health wise based on info in his paperwork."
The folks at Dillon went out of their way, Cheryl recalls, to assure her that her baby wouldn't be sick. No baby with a fever or even a sniffle would be sent over from Korea, she says she was told. "That made me feel really good and really secure about what was going on."
Cheryl and Colleen began decorating a nursery.
The Moore family's life story is pretty straightforward. Not so with the baby they would adopt.
A seven-and-a-half-pound baby boy was born April 30, 1996, at the Kim Chul Ho Obstetrical Clinic in Inchon, Kyunggi-do.
A social history taken by Eastern Child Welfare Services lists the mother, Han Hee Kyung, as 23 and single. She's identified as a round-faced, dark-skinned factory worker with a cheerful, open-minded disposition who likes to read, although she was a high school dropout.