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Judge: Sagle girl must return to Mexico

| April 11, 2010 9:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - A 9-year-old girl living and going to school in Sagle since April 2009 must return to Mexico, a federal judge ruled earlier this week. The order by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge pertains to a petition from the child's father, Patrick Stirzaker, 66, a British businessman living in Mexico City, for the return of his daughter who had moved to North Idaho with her mother, Lilian Beltran, 45.

COEUR d'ALENE - A 9-year-old girl living and going to school in Sagle since April 2009 must return to Mexico, a federal judge ruled earlier this week.

The order by U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge pertains to a petition from the child's father, Patrick Stirzaker, 66, a British businessman living in Mexico City, for the return of his daughter who had moved to North Idaho with her mother, Lilian Beltran, 45.

During a February court hearing on the International Child Abduction Act - or the Hague Convention - Beltran argued that such a return would be dangerous for the child, accusing Stirzaker of being an abusive father.

But Stirzaker's attorney Gary Amendola said at the time that Stirzaker was a loving father who had tracked down his family's whereabouts through an online search after they disappeared on him.

The judge weighed those arguments and said this week evidence of the potential dangers with a return to Mexico wasn't there, and that the child should go.

"It is for another body to wade through the countervailing interests and allegations made by the parties," the order states, referring to the February testimonies that at times went into who the better parent was, or who should win a custody battle pending divorce. "It is not the role of this court to resolve the parties' underlying custody battle."

Instead, Lodge said, the child was wrongfully removed from Stirzaker's care and must go back.

The judge urged the sides to allow the daughter to finish the school year before her return, while the father would have access to see her.

Should the sides be unable to agree on those conditions, the judge said the girl's return would have to take place no later than April 30.

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