Sunday, January 28, 2001

Custody case lands granddad in jail

Won't discuss daughter's flight to keep girl, 10, from Muslim dad

The Associated Press

        BRANDENBURG, Ky. — The divorce of an Egyptian man and his American wife who is now in hiding with his child has left a trail of misery for the family, whose split is rooted in differing religious beliefs.

        Looking at a photo of his missing daughter at his home in Georgetown, Mohey Mahmoud wipes his eyes dry and wonders whether he'll ever see 10-year-old Sarah again.

        Meanwhile, a man who could know the girl's whereabouts, church deacon Kent Boyd, is sitting in jail, refusing to answer questions about his daughter and granddaughter.

        Mr. Boyd, 74, believes he is protecting them from Mr. Mahmoud, his former son-in-law. “I'll spend the rest of my life (in jail) if I have to,” he said.

        A judge granted Mr. Mahmoud custody of Sarah last year — but the victory has been meaningless. His ex-wife, Susan Mahmoud, disappeared with the girl in June, and he has not heard from Sarah since. “I love my daughter more than anything,” said Mr. Mahmoud, an engineer for Toyota.

        Susan Boyd, an elementary school teacher with a strict Christian upbringing, met Mr. Mah moud at the Officer's Club at Fort Knox in 1981. He was an Egyptian army officer visiting the United States for military training.

        In 1983, they married in Cairo. Afterward, the couple returned to Kentucky, where Ms. Mahmoud continued to teach and he worked on a master's degree in engineering at the University of Louisville.

        The tension escalated in 1989 when Ms. Mahmoud became pregnant. Mr. Mahmoud said his in-laws were constantly pressuring him about what the child's faith would be.

        Eighteen months after Sarah was born, the couple separated. Ms. Mahmoud was awarded custody and moved back to Brandenburg, and Mr. Mahmoud was given visitation every other weekend.

        A divorce was granted in 1993.

        After that, quarrels over custody of the child heightened, and Ms. Mahmoud alleged that Mr. Mahmoud was sexually abusing his daughter. The allegations were unfounded, and a Meade County Circuit Court restored Mr. Mahmoud's visitation rights.

        Susan Mahmoud's family said she feared that after the Kentucky Court of Appeals returned the case to the local court in 1998, she didn't stand a chance of winning custody. So last June, she and the girl disappeared, just before a hearing set by the circuit court to review the evidence.

        Last fall, she was indicted on a charge of custodial interference, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.


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