A week after Johny Smith met his baby daughter for the first time after being told she was dead, the family of the child's mother says they too were victims of 19-year-old Stephani James' lies.
James is accused of telling Smith their baby died at birth. Now, she's accused of telling her parents, who raised the child, that Smith wanted nothing to do with the baby.
Johny Smith never knew his baby existed until July of 2013. He now has temporary custody after James was caught lying to an Oklahoma County judge. The teenage mother eventually admitted to the ongoing lie she told her ex-boyfriend. Now, her own family is speaking out.
"[Giving up the baby] was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," maternal grandmother Carolyn Ann Owens said.
Carolyn and he husband, Jacob Owens, had less than 24 hours to hand over their 8-month-old granddaughter who they had raised from day one. They say their daughter showed no interest in the baby.
"I raised this baby as my own," Carolyn said as she fought back tears. "I never left her side. She never went with a babysitter. I quit my job to stay with her."
The Owens say James told a story about how Smith was on drugs and didn't want the child. They now know that is not true and say Smith is a good guy.
"We were all lied to," Carolyn said.
Smith realized his baby was actually alive after seeing a picture of her on James' Facebook profile. The Owens say they do not blame Smith for wanting his daughter. In fact, they say he should have custody, but they're still devastated.
"I used to be the one to put her to sleep," maternal grandfather Jacob Owens said. "[I'm] used to her laying on my chest. She'd just go to sleep."
The couple says the ideal situation for them is to raise the baby with Smith as "one big family." The Owens say they will always love James, but they know she was wrong and needs help. Carolyn and Jacob say they just want what's best for the baby.
"No baby can have too many people [who] love her," Carolyn said.
"[My granddaughter] always brings smiles to anybody she sees," Jacob said. "We just want to be part of her life."
News 9 has reached out to Stephani James. She refuses to give comment, only to say the matter is personal. She currently has the legal right to supervised visitation, but her family says she has never been interested in seeing the child. Permanent custody will be determined when the case goes to trial.