U.S. Army Drill Sgt. Terry Achane, stationed at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, learned of the turn of events just as he was about to board a plane to Utah to get custody of 21-month-old Leah Frei, whom Achane calls "Teleah," The Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday.
A trial court judge had granted Achane custody of the child, finding in a Nov. 20 ruling that she had been placed for adoption illegally. The judge affirmed his decision Jan 4.
Achane's now ex-wife, Tira Bland, conceived Teleah when the couple lived in Texas. Achane was transferred to Fort Jackson, and had expected his wife and child eventually to join him in South Carolina. Bland told an adoption agency her husband had abandoned her and had no interest in the child. She gave up the girl two days after she was born on March 1, 2011, and the baby was placed with adoptive parents Jared and Kristi Frei.
Achane only learned three months later what had become of his baby, but the agency and the Freis refused his demand for her return and tried to proceed with the adoption.
The state's high court in Salt Lake City said the temporary hold based on the adoptive parents' petition for emergency relief would provide time to assess the petition, but it did not say how long that would take.
A custody hearing that had been set for Wednesday was canceled, the Tribune reported.