A metro man met his 8-month-old daughter for the first time Friday. Until recently, he didn't even know she existed because the mother told him the baby died prior to birth.
Under court order, the mother, 19-year-old Stephanie James, surrendered custody to the baby's father, 21-year-old Johny Smith.
"As soon as I saw her … I knew she was mine, and I started balling my eyes out," Smith said.
James is Smith's estranged ex-girlfriend. James gave birth to the baby in late October 2012. Smith never knew about the birth until months later when he saw the baby's picture on Facebook.
"I saw it, and I got an instant chill," Smith said. "I thought … I've got to see if I can do something about this."
Smith called attorney John Paul Jordan, and a court case began. James represented herself at Oklahoma County District Court. People inside the courtroom said, at first, the teen lied to the judge by telling him the baby was adopted. Eventually, the truth came out and the judge awarded full custody to Smith pending a final decision to be made at trial.
"[The James family] was not thrilled to be turning the child over to dad at that point in time," Jordan said.
Smith says he is excited to get to know his daughter and to start learning those daily chores.
"I had to give her a bath, and I had to change her diaper," Smith said. "I fed her and put on a new dress … I didn't think she would warm up to me so quickly, but she just looked up at me and smiled," Smith said.
James currently has supervised visitation. There is no word yet on whether James will face charges.
The Bethel Foundation, a faith-based non-profit organization, donated several baby items to Johny Smith and his daughter.