Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
For 15 years, the sorrowful, determined face of Elizabeth Morgan riveted Washingtonians as the plastic surgeon waged a highly public war for custody of her daughter Hilary. Morgan, convinced that her ex-husband, McLean oral surgeon Eric Foretich, had sexually abused their daughter, went to jail for two years rather than let him see the child. Foretich says his ex-wife is disturbed. Morgan and daughter eventually fled into an eight-year exile in New Zealand to evade a D.C. judge's orders. Mother and daughter -- now renamed Ellen -- returned in 1997. Foretich, who says he was left penniless by the legal battle, continues his fight in court. An excerpt from The Post of Dec. 1, 1990:
By Steve Twomey and Elsa Walsh
Washington Post Staff Writers
The parental struggle over Hilary Foretich, the District 8-year-old who spawned lawsuits, court orders, prison sentences, federal legislation and an international search, has come at least to a temporary close in a New Zealand court.
Declaring that Hilary's "physical, educational, spiritual and emotional needs are being met," Family Court Judge P.D. Mahoney said she could remain with her mother, plastic surgeon Elizabeth Morgan, with whom she had been li- ving in the New Zealand city of Christchurch since March.
Mahoney made no finding on the tantalizing question that has enveloped the five-year-old case: whether Hilary was sexually abused by her father, Eric A. Foretich, an allegation he has denied and no court has upheld.
Nonetheless, Mahoney barred Foretich from visiting his daughter in New Zealand "in the immediate future," arguing that visits would again place Hilary in the eye of parental conflict "with the inevitable disruption of her emotional security."
Instead, Foretich, a Virginia oral surgeon, will receive a photograph of Hilary every six months, as well as reports on her health and school work, and eventually will be allowed to mail her gifts and cards.
Although Mahoney said that Hilary believes Foretich and his parents sexually abused her, he added that Morgan and Morgan's parents have so often told the child about such abuse that for Hilary "that is the reality, whether or not her belief has any basis in fact."
"In my view, it is now part of the family ethos that she is an abused child, and it would be impossible for her not to identify with the convictions of her mother and maternal grandparents," Mahoney wrote, according to WUSA-TV (Channel 9), which obtained details of the ruling.
Mahoney added that a court-appointed psychiatrist, Karen Selas, believed Hilary was an "over-valued child" who wielded too much influence within her family.
The 31-page ruling, issued Nov. 21, has not been released in New Zealand, which has strict laws about publicity in child-custody cases. What began as a local custody fight blossomed into national drama in 1987, when Morgan sent her daughter into hiding rather than allow Foretich to continue to visit Hilary. She was born after the couple was divorced in 1982 and became the subject of a legal battle that intensified in 1985, when Morgan alleged that Foretich had begun abusing Hilary when the child was 2 years old.
Ordered by D.C. Superior Court Judge Herbert Dixon to disclose Hilary's whereabouts, Morgan refused and was imprisoned, winning her freedom 25 months later when a sympathetic Congress passed legislation designed specifically for her.