Sunday, July 25, 2004

Mom unrepentant after disappearance

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - A woman who disappeared with her daughter for four years after a battle with her ex-husband over visitation and custody said she did the right thing.

"Because of what I did, my daughter has had four years of peace," Susan Mahmoud told the Louisville Courier-Journal from the Orange County, Ind., jail.

The daughter, Sarah Mahmoud, now 14, was placed in the custody of child services in Orange County. A judge said she would remain there until the case is investigated.

Mahmoud was indicted for custodial interference, a felony, after their disappearance in June 2000.

Mahmoud, 51, said she disappeared with Sarah because she feared her ex-husband, Mohey Mahmoud, would be granted greater visitation rights. Mohey Mahmoud could not be reached for comment.

Susan Mahmoud, who had been an elementary teacher in Meade County, said the battle over visitation and custody stemmed from her belief that her former husband had sexually abused the girl.

In November 1996, Meade County Circuit Judge Sam Monarch restored Mohey Mahmoud's visitation rights and agreed with a domestic-relations commissioner that the allegations were unfounded. But in July 1998, the Kentucky Court of Appeals told the lower court to reconsider testimony from a doctor and psychologist.

In June 2000, before Monarch was to review evidence in the case, Susan Mahmoud left with Sarah.

"I had to protect her. So we went to Scott County one night and tried to get them to take my daughter's statement, but they couldn't, so we just didn't go home," she said.

Susan Mahmoud and her daughter had been living at a residential motel in Paoli for at least two years, police said.

Indiana State Police made the arrest Thursday after acting on a tip relayed by the Meade County Sheriff's Department.

Smith said Friday he has begun seeking Susan Mahmoud's extradition.

The charge against her carries a maximum sentence of five years.

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