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Antonia Morgan, 91; aided daughter's custody battle

WASHINGTON -- Antonia Morgan, who with her husband spirited their granddaughter away in defiance of a District of Columbia Family Court order and eventually settled in New Zealand during an exceptionally public and bitter custody battle, died April 3 of congestive heart failure at her home here. She was 91.

The protracted case between Elizabeth Morgan, then a prominent plastic surgeon, best-selling author, and columnist, and her former husband, Eric Foretich, a promising oral surgeon, became a cause celebre for both feminists and fathers' rights groups. But for Antonia Morgan, it was a matter of protecting her granddaughter.

On Aug. 5, 1987, a D.C. Superior Court judge jailed Elizabeth Morgan for refusing to allow her daughter to have unsupervised visits with Foretich. She had accused him of sexually abusing the child, which he adamantly denied.

Shortly afterward, Antonia Morgan and her husband, William, both retired psychologists who had divorced and remarried to help their granddaughter, packed up the 5-year-old and took her on a 15,000-mile journey. For 2 1/2 years, the couple traveled with the child, Hilary Foretich, with the press in pursuit.

In 1988, they settled in Christchurch, New Zealand, and lived in a two-bedroom apartment at a residential motel. Hilary enrolled in school, and the Morgans applied for residency and citizenship.

In October 1989, an act of Congress released Elizabeth Morgan from the D.C. jail after 26 months. She joined her parents and her daughter in New Zealand in 1990. Soon the child's location was discovered in the glare of international news coverage.

Antonia Morgan returned to the United States from New Zealand in 1995 to again settle in Washington.

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