May 20th, 2014
12:55 PM ET

Adoptive Parents Fight for Custody of 9-Year-Old Sonya

The last time Sonya's adoptive parents heard her voice, the girl was begging to return to the only home she'd ever known.

"What did you say, baby doll?" asks Kim Hodgin, in a recording of the phone call.

"I want to you to come and get me," responds Sonya.

She describes her biological father's home as dirty, with mold and cigarettes everywhere. The girl complains he doesn't have clean water, but says he's being nice to her.

Her adoptive father tells Sonya everything is going to be OK. "You just stay strong," says Dave Hodgin.

'He's a total stranger'

That call took place January 30, one day after Sonya was removed from the Hodgins' home in Tennessee.

Sonya, now 9, had been in the Hodgins' care since before she was 2, and was adopted by the family in 2008.

Before the adoption was finalized, her birth father pleaded guilty to transporting firearms - a felony - and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

Under Tennessee law, his parental rights were automatically terminated because state law does not allow anyone incarcerated for more than 10 years to have rights to a child under the age of 8.

However, her birth father later cut a deal using information he had about a homicide. His sentence was reduced to just 7½ years, allowing John McCaul to assert his parental rights and fight to reverse the adoption.

"She's never laid eyes on this man. He's a total stranger," said Kim Hodgin.

Nevertheless, a court reversed Sonya's adoption in November 2009. The girl continued to live with the Hodgins as both sides fought for custody.

Nearly five years later, a judge ruled Sonya should return to her biological father. Three hours after the ruling, she was gone.

"Sonya's crying her eyes out. Screaming bloody murder, 'Please don't let them do this, Daddy, please, Mama, don't let 'em take me,'" said Dave Hodgin.

"They took her bags, and that's the last that I've seen her," said Kim Hodgin.

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Photo of the Day: A Look Back Reporting on Moore, Oklahoma, Tornado
May 20th, 2014
07:03 AM ET

Photo of the Day: A Look Back Reporting on Moore, Oklahoma, Tornado

It's been a year since the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado killed 24 people.

CNN's George Howell reported on the ground during that time, and he returned this week to honor the anniversary.

In our photo of the day, Howell shared this picture:

"The spot where I reported LIVE the day an F5 tornado destroyed a school; Moore, OK, 2013."

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May 20th, 2014
06:25 AM ET
Midterm Scorecard: Is the Party Over?
May 20th, 2014
05:33 AM ET

Midterm Scorecard: Is the Party Over?

Establishment Republicans, backed by business-friendly outside groups, launched a counter-offensive this year against conservative Senate challengers after two election cycles of hard-right candidates winning GOP primaries but losing in November.

Republicans need to flip six seats this year to win back the majority and don't want the same scenario to play out again. The tea party's scorecard this year is far different than in 2010 and 2012, when it knocked off several establishment-backed candidates.

It's too early to say if the party's over, but as Stuart Rothenberg of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report wrote earlier this month, "it's already clear that the pragmatist conservatives have stopped the anti-establishment's electoral momentum."

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