Sunday, August 27, 2000

Prayer vigil provides lift to Justin's adoptive parents

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — About 50 supporters of a Girard, Ohio, couple embroiled in a two-state custody battle over 3-year-old Justin offered encouragement through prayer and song during a candlelight vigil Saturday.

[photo] Rich and Cheryl Asente joined about 50 supports in a prayer vigil Saturday night.
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
        Supporters, who huddled in a circle and held candles under the dark sky, wore “Justice for Justin” T-shirts and were surrounded by posters, including one that read: “Cheryl and Rich: You are Not Alone.”

        They criticized Wednesday's Ohio Supreme Court ruling, which said the battle over Justin's custody should be decided in a Kentucky court. The Ohio ruling was seen as a victory for Justin's unmarried birth parents, who had fought to have the case decided by the Kentucky court system.

        Justin's adoptive parents, Rich and Cheryl Asente, who attended the evening vigil at Goebel Park, said the support was an emotional lift.

        “This hasn't been a real good week for us,” said Mrs. Asente, who along with her husband, read Scripture and thanked supporters at the vigil. “We've been kind of down with the Supreme Court ruling, but we need to pick ourselves up.

        “It's an emotional lift for us,” she said. “It helps us spiritually, but ultimately we're praying for wisdom for the people who will make decisions that will affect Justin's life.”

        Victoria Nymberg of Mason, who helped organize the informal vigil, said many people she knows “feel that the interests of this little boy are not being taken into account.

        “We are here to show support for the Asente family and to make them feel that the people in Greater Cincinnati are very supportive of Justin's best interest. We are (also) here to pray for wisdom on the part of the people who are making the decisions about Justin,” Ms. Nymberg said.

        Mark and Shay Reis of Covington said they attended the vigil because they empathize with the Asentes. The couple have been raising Mrs. Reis' 9-year-old niece, and now her mother wants the girl returned to her.

        “I was adopted myself. I've got the best mom in the world,” Mrs. Reis said. “I wouldn't trade my adoptive mother for my birth (mother) ever.”

        The Ohio decision gives a Kentucky appellate court sole authority to decide whether Justin should stay with his brother and the Asentes in Girard or go back to his birth parents, Regina Moore and Jerry Dorning of Florence, with whom Justin is staying until today.

        The court battle over Justin began more than two years ago, when the Asentes tried to adopt the boy, as they had his 4-year-old biological brother, Joey. However, Ms. Moore and Mr. Dorning changed their minds during the adoption process, and sued to get Justin back.

        Among those expected to join the Asentes at Saturday's vigil were members of Hear My Voice, a national coalition of volunteer children's advocates and professionals.

        The Asentes are spending this weekend in Covington with Ann Abbott, who organized the vigil.



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