Bringing Pietro Home: One Dad's Epic Custody Fight


Any parent who has gone through a custody battle is bound to have a story to tell. But the story of Brandon Henry's fight to win custody of his son -- with angry parents, a secret pregnancy and a cast of Italian nuns -- is one only Hollywood could make up, if it weren't true.

The story culminated in an emotional mission to Florence, Italy, where Henry moved into his lawyer's nearby villa and began a long struggle with the local court system.

The story began the day he met Stephanie Chavarria.

"I met Stephanie in about, say, 2004," said Henry. "She's a real people person, a wonderful smile. And an amazing laugh. We just had so much in common. We just clicked."

Henry, 28, was an Army vet and an aspiring DJ in Dallas. He thought Chavarria was going to be the love of his life. There was just one problem. Well, actually two.

"Her parents are extremely controlling," said Henry. "They want to control who she's friends with, who she sees, who she spends time with."

Henry said Carmen and Lazaro Chavarria, two dentists in the Houston area, wanted their daughter to have nothing to do with him.

"They prejudged me," said Henry. "They felt she should be with a lawyer or doctor."

Carmen and Lazaro Chavarria did not respond to repeated attempts to contact them by phone.

Chavarria continued to date Henry against her parents' wishes.

"Our relationship was kinda weird, because every time we'd go out or do something she was constantly lying to her family," said Henry.

Then one day, Henry's mother, Sherrye Andrews, noticed something.

"Brandon actually showed me a picture," said Andrews. "He said, 'Mom, look at this.' And I said, 'Um, she's pregnant.'"

"We always talked about having a child together," Henry laughed. "I just didn't know it'd come so soon. I was looking forward to it. And, you know, at the time, she was too. She was really happy about it."

But Henry was completely unaware of what was coming next.

"Everything changed," he said. "Everything fell apart."

'She Hid the Pregnancy'

As the months slid by, Henry said, Chavarria kept putting off telling her parents about the pregnancy.

"She was really, really afraid to tell her family that she was pregnant," said Henry. "She didn't know how they'd react. She hid the pregnancy by wearing baggy clothes."

Andrews said that "obviously there were deep issues there. I didn't know all of the issues, but obviously there were some problems there."

"I began to worry because she continued to put it off, put it off -- and then she ended up leaving town," said Henry.

"Brandon told me that Stephanie was leaving to go to Mexico," said Andrews. "That's when red flags went up."

Chavarria told Henry that her doctor had approved a short trip to visit grandparents in Mexico City. But the trip turned out not to be short.

"Five days became two-and-a-half weeks," said Henry. "I hadn't heard anything from her. Yet, I still continued to call. Then the ring changed on her phone."

"I continued to call," he said. "And finally, I got a recording saying 'The person you're trying to reach may have their phone turned off' -- in Italian. So then I really began to grow concerned."

Henry said Chavarria finally called him just days before her due date. She had returned to the United States. She said she was fine, but she avoided him, remaining behind the gates of her parents' house. Then the due date passed.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...