ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - A Pinellas County mother made her first appearance in court Thursday after being accused of scamming a couple who expected to adopt her twins.
Investigators say 26-year-old Ceara Stowe was in jail when she signed a pre-birth agreement for a Nebraska couple, Joshua and Lindsey Buechler, to adopt her babies. This would be the couple’s third attempt to adopt after the mothers in two previous arrangements both changed their minds after giving birth.
They kept in touch and when Stowe got out of jail, she flew to Florida to meet the Buechlers in person.
The couple was paying Stowe’s rent and health care expenses ahead of the birth. Lindsey says Ceara kept them updated on the babies’ growth and health. They texted daily, even up to the day they thought she was being induced.
That’s when the Buechlers realized something was wrong.
“I think the hardest thing for us is she was texting us up until that hour, ‘I can't wait to complete your family. I’m so excited for you guys and excited for your daughter to be a big sister,’” Lindsey Buechler recalled Stowe saying.
The Buechlers went to the hospital, but Stowe wasn’t there.
“We went to the hospital and we were told there was no patient there by that name. Maybe she was just checking in. She sent us pictures of her hooked up to monitors, as well, and then we started asking ‘What room? What hospital? ‘Did we go to the wrong one?’” Lindsay said.
The couple eventually realized Stowe wasn’t in the hospital. She had already given birth.
Beyond the deception, investigators say some of Stowe’s actions were illegal.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says after the twins were born, Stowe pretended to still be pregnant so she could continue getting money from the Buechlers.
The couple paid Stowe more than $2,000 for rent and living expenses after she gave birth to the twins.
She had the babies, but then changed her mind about the adoption. The couple was left heartbroken and out of thousands of dollars.
“Where this crossed over into being a criminal case is she had given birth in May and led the parents to believe she was going to induce June 3,” Deputy Chuck Skipper explained. “So they paid the fees and rent for June although she had already had the babies.”
Lindsey Buechler says she and her husband, and their daughter, are going to take a step back from the adoption journey and focus on the family they have.
“We are too emotionally and financially spent, so I said I don't think I can make a connection with another expectant mom because of how this ended,” Lindsey said.
Stowe faces two felony charges for the $2,100 the couple paid after the twins were born, and she was told she will have to pay that back. But the couple won't get back the more than $24,000 for Stowe’s prior-to-birth living expenses, legal fees, and travel.