Hilary Foretich says she longs to return to the United States, eat Oreo cookies and see her American cousins but won’t come back if forced to see her father.
Hilary has lived in New Zealand since her mother, Elizabeth Morgan, sent her into hiding seven years ago rather than deliver the child for court-ordered visits with her father, Eric Foretich. Morgan spent two years in jail for defying the order.
But in a surprise statement Friday, Foretich said he will relinquish all custody claims and ask that the original court order be dropped.
In a handwritten note read at a congressional hearing Friday, 12-year-old Hilary said: “I want to go to an American high school and I want to live a normal American life for once.”
Congress is considering a special bill that would overturn the court order compelling Hilary to see Foretich. That would mean Hilary, her mother and grandmother could return to the United States, said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.
The bill is similar to the narrowly written 1989 law that released Elizabeth Morgan from jail.
But, Davis said, if Foretich drops his custody claims as he indicated he would on Friday, “there would be no need for legislation. That would obviously be preferable.”
During a custody battle spanning several years in the 1980s, Morgan accused Foretich and then his family of horrific abuse. Medical evidence was inconclusive, and her claims were never proved in court.
Foretich, a McLean, Va., oral surgeon, said he believes Davis’ bill would be unconstitutional.
“It is not my intent to ever compel myself upon her,” he said. “If she doesn’t want to see me, that’s clearly her prerogative, but it’s not the prerogative of Congress to dismember that relationship.”
Foretich has always denied that he harmed Hilary, and his voice grew strained Friday as he testified about the child.
“I love this little child. She may not love me anymore, for whatever reasons,” Foretich said.
Elizabeth Morgan manufactured the abuse accusations to deny him custody, Foretich said. Married only briefly, the couple parted before Hilary was born.
“I want to make it clear: I did not molest her,” he said.
Hilary, also known as Ellen Morgan, has said she remembers being abused by Foretich, and has described the events to family members, therapists and court officials, said her grandmother, Antonia Morgan.
“I am afraid to be in the presence of my real dad because he is a real sick, scary guy and because of the things he did to me,” Hilary wrote.
While the Washington judge’s order that put Morgan in jail stands, she will not return to the United States until 2000, when Hilary is 18 and cannot be forced to see her father, Morgan’s family said.