Father awarded daughter, 5, despite history of sex abuse


BEL AIR -- A judge awarded full custody of a 5-year-old girl yesterday to the child's father, currently on probation for sexual abuse, after finding that the mother "has a serious psychiatric problem."

Harford Circuit Judge Maurice W. Baldwin Jr. did not explain during a custody hearing what lead him to his conclusion. He ordered the unsealing of court documents that include psychological evaluations of the father, the mother and the child.

The girl is understood to be in hiding with her mother.

A hearing was scheduled at 9:15 a.m. today for Judge Baldwin to hear a motion to stay execution of the custody order. That motion was made by Robert P. Brophy Jr., the lawyer for the child's mother, and Angela Eaves, a Legal Aid attorney representing the child.

In his ruling, Judge Baldwin noted that Dr. Michael Gombatz, an Anne Arundel County psychologist, had testified in January that the father's court-ordered therapy following the sex-abuse conviction "has been completed and he has been rehabilitated."

The father was convicted in 1987 by Harford Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill of one count of child abuse for fondling a stepdaughter, 11 at the time, court records show.

The mother, whose name is Mary, took the couple's 5-year-old into hiding last August after Judge Whitfill ordered the child be sent on an overnight visit with her father to be supervised by his friends and family.

The mother, who had legal custody of the girl when she fled, has said she fears for the child's safety. She wants all visits between father and daughter supervised by social services workers.

After learning of the ruling, the mother, in a telephone interview from an undisclosed location, said, "How do you give a convicted child molester custody of a 5-year-old. What the hell is wrong with your judges in Maryland. Will this never stop?"

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