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Special Report: Cross-Country Custody Battle

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- The unmistakable sound of a child's laughter. For any parent it's the perfect soundtrack.

For nearly 3 painful years, however, it was a sound Anthony Jordan rarely heard.

“That's time I can't get back for something I didn't do,” Jordan said. “I didn't do nothing wrong.”

On June 6th, 2010, Johnson was involved in a domestic dispute when his girlfriend, Elizabeth, allegedly hit him with a chair. A no-contact order was put in place, and Jordan was forced to leave his two sons, Justice and Javon, behind.

A few months later, he says he spotted a public notice in the newspaper.

“Come to court September 13th, or your rights will be terminated for your children,” Jordan said. “She terminated her own right and pushed to terminate my rights.”

Citing a lack of steady contact with the boys, the courts ruled that Jordan had abandoned his children. Months before that decision was made and before the mother terminated her rights, Justice and Javon were already heading West.

Over in Provo, Utah, Scott and Roxanne Thacker received the call from a local adoption agency.

“They had twins who their birth mother was trying to place for adoption,” Mrs. Thacker said.

So they loaded up for Iowa.

“Bought a minivan, drove 20 hours across country to meet Liz, who was the boys' birth mother,” Mrs. Thacker said.

A few weeks later, the adoption process began, and the boys, who the Thackers renamed Aaron and Elijah, were in the process of becoming part of a new family.

“We invited them into our home and loved them, and they are our children,” Mrs. Thacker said.

That’s where things got messy.

The Thacker's blessing became heartache and anger for Jordan.

“My kids were all the way in Provo Utah,” Jordan said. “How do two kids leave a state without two parents signature?”

Locked in a cross-country legal battle, Jordan and the Thackers were also vying for the boys' love.

“I have to fight strangers for my own children…in America,” Jordan said. “That's sick to me.”

Jordan says 3 years of court battles almost made him give up.

“I'm not gonna lie I wanted to, but I didn't…cause I couldn't.”

The Thackers fought just as hard, citing concern of the children's safety.

“Can you imagine for a moment leaving your own child, ever, with someone that you don't think is safe,” Mrs. Thacker said.

Court records show Jordan has a checkered past, including arrests on a several drug charges.

“I was called a pimp, a killer, a drug dealer, all of the above,” Jordan said.

The Thackers say it affects his abilities as a caregiver.

“Biology doesn't make you a parent…It never has and it never will,” Mrs. Thacker said. “There's a covenant relationship between a child and a parent.”

“How can you say you would hate to take them from a loving home, like I live in a crack house or something?” Jordan said. “I was stereotyped.”

On March 28th, 2012, the state courts reversed their decision, restored Jordan's parental rights, and ordered the boys returned.

Finally, this week, Jordan and the boys were together again.

The Thackers  offered a message of caution..

“If they have to be here I want to see him step up and do what's best for these kids,” Scott Thacker said.

Jordan says those are his exact plans - and then some.

“Go fishing, go camping, kick it, go catch some frogs, ride bikes, fall off bikes, cry, scrape ourselves, get up and try it again.”

“That's what I'm ready for.”

After 3 years, and two states…time has run out of for the Thackers

“Aaron and Elijah - I love you and I will always love you…No matter what happens, we love you,” a tearful Mr. Thacker said.

Meanwhile, a father attempts to make up for what was lost.

“Them boys man, they make me feel good when I seen them for real…for real.”

One of the representatives for the Thackers passed on our contact info in an attempt to reach the boys birth-mother. We didn't hear back from her

Scott Thacker says the battle has inspired him to push for a change in the law that would acknowledge children less as property and more as people.
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