OKLAHOMA CITY — A terrifying news story shook the state of Oklahoma today, June 28 2013, after a judge awarded sole custody of a 6-years-old girl, to a convicted sex offender.
Six years ago, Nicholas Elizondo was convicted of raping his then, six-year-old older daughter. After serving six years in jail, he started fighting for sole custody of his younger daughter – Sarah – who just turned six, and Judge Howard Haralson made that happen.
During the time Elizondo was in jail, his ex-wife, Lisa Knight, has been raising their daughter Sarah by herself with little contact with her father.
Sarah’s family is shocked by the Oklahoma County judge’s decision. Both – Sarah’s mother and cousin – think there is more to Judge Howard Haralson’s decision than what was presented in the courtroom.
“His [Elizondo’s] attorney was in the chambers with the judge while he was deliberating his decision,” said Lisa Knight. “There was laughter coming from the room. We waited for what seemed like hours but it was just minutes.”
She thinks the judge questioned her parenting when she couldn’t name all of Sarah’s doctors. Born with a cleft lip and palette, Sarah has lots of specialists.
Now Sarah has to leave for California tonight to live with a father her family says she only knows as someone who brings gifts and leaves.
“I don`t understand how a sex offender can just walk in the courtroom and just take her after I’ve had her for six years,” said Sarah’s mother.
The family is frantic and wondering how to come up with the money to keep fighting for Sarah. They are hoping publicity may shine some light on what they consider an outrageous judicial decision.
Little Sarah came home from a trip, to see her father in California, with a story that, she says, she wasn’t supposed to tell.
“While she was in the bathtub she said ‘Something really bad happened,’” said Lisa Knight’s cousin.
It took weeks for her to tell her mother and cousin that her half-brother had touched her inappropriately. With Sarah’s accusations incomplete she is headed to live with him too. Sarah’s mother says her father hasn’t had much interest in seeing Sarah until recently. She doesn’t want to think about why he suddenly changed his mind.
“I just know that his victim was six-years-old at the time and Sarah is six-years-old right now,” said Knight.
Sarah’s cousin – Coomer – says with a registered sexual predator as a father her childhood may not be much of a childhood.
“He can`t take her to Chuck E. Cheese. He can`t take her to a park,” said Coomer. “He can`t go to her school. He`s not allowed in school.”
With only hours left with Sarah they are both trying to keep a brave face. They say her father’s past will haunt her future.