After Mourad "Moni" Samaan failed to bring back their 2-year-old daughter, Madeline, the girl's mother filed urgent legal pleadings, saying her ex-husband "is out of control and our daughter is in immediate danger."
Marcia Fay's declaration demanding the little girl's return came after Samaan missed the scheduled drop-off Aug. 7, a day after he learned Fay had been awarded full custody.
The toddler, Madeline Layla Samaan-Fay, was found dead along with her father in a sport-utility vehicle on a wooded, desolate property co-owned by Samaan and his brother in El Dorado County.
Authorities say they believe Samaan murdered the little girl and killed himself. Autopsy results are pending and the official cause of death remains under investigation.
A two-year stack of Sacramento County family court documents reveals a bitter custody battle between Fay and her ex-husband, including a 2009 order for Samaan to complete 26 weeks of anger counseling before getting approval for overnight visits with his daughter. The papers allege outbursts by Samaan, including his storming into a hospital post-surgical room after Madeline was born Dec. 22, 2008, six months after the couple's marriage broke up.
They culminate with Fay's declaration that Samaan had "absconded with our daughter" on an out-of-state trip and violated their child custody agreement five times in the past two months by failing to return Madeline on time after scheduled visits.
Fay, who works as a state deputy attorney general, said in the documents that her ex-husband's "behavior in violating custody orders is becoming more brazen.
"His behavior has escalated out of control," she said. "He realizes that if he maintains our daughter against court orders, law enforcement will not intercede if he is not at home or if I do not know her location."
On Aug. 2, Fay requested an order from the child abduction unit of the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office to stop Samaan from taking unauthorized trips with Madeline, including to Egypt where he had family and Mexico where he owned property.
She said her ex-husband had taken the girl to Oregon, "will not disclose his location" and "has blocked his telephone number." A hearing was pending for Aug. 30 on contempt allegations of repeated violations of child custody orders.
She said Samaan had threatened suicide in 2008 and "his behavior is now more unstable than ever before."
In 2010, Samaan was granted permission to have the child in his custody on Wednesday evenings through Thursday mornings and on Saturday mornings to Sunday mornings. In his court filings, Samaan requested delaying the second phase of a two-part anger management course in December 2010. He also protested often being denied access to his daughter since her birth.
Samaan referred to the girl as "Layla"; her mother called her "Madeline." He wrote that his ex-wife "wants to be in control and dictate not only my parenting time but also all of the decisions relating to our daughter.
He wrote that Fay "demanded that I not contact her about her pregnancy." He complained that on the day their daughter was born, she "allowed her own family to see the baby before me. She allowed her friends to see the baby before me!"
Fay responded in court papers that she assured him he would be notified of the birth. But she said a "visibly agitated" Samaan "forced his way" into a hospital room when she was nursing the infant after delivering her by Caesarean section.
She said he was "tripping over cords and tubes connected to the operating equipment" and "only after much difficulty cooperated with demands by the nursing staff to leave the room."
The couple married on March 31, 2007, separated after 14 months and divorced on Nov. 19, 2009. After Madeline's birth, they battled over multiple parenting, child support and custody issues.
Fay alleged that her ex-husband refused to give the girl bottled breast milk she provided or keep court-mandated journals on the girl's care. Samaan complained he was being denied "continuous bonding between Layla and me." He also said he was at a disadvantage in the dispute because of his ex-wife's "superior knowledge of the law."
Samaan's father, Makram Samaan, told the Bee his son was long scared of losing his daughter. After his ex-wife was granted full custody, he apparently drove the little girl to his 40-acre property nearly Grizzly Flat. There, two lives ended.
The elder Samaan said his son and granddaughter died of carbon monoxide poisoning from an exhaust pipe.
El Dorado County Sheriff's Lt. Brian Golmitz said authorities are investigating the case as a "murder-suicide." But he said, "the autopsies are ongoing" and the cause of the deaths is undetermined.
Family discord doesn't matter killing a child can't be justified, columnist Marcos Breton writes.