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Mother takes stand in custody battle

OCALA - A woman who spent a month in jail rather than allow her ex-husband to have unsupervised, court-ordered visits with their 4-year-old daughter, testified Tuesday that she feared he had abused the girl. Evelyn Hays, involved in a bitter custody battle with her former husband, Steven Hays, said she fled Alabama because she was afraid of him and described the events leading up to hiding her daughter at a relative's home in August.

Hays has strongly denied charges by his former wife that he sexually abused the girl.

Ms. Hays said she moved to Orlando in April 1988 after her daughter came back from a visit with Hays with bruises on each wrist. The girl told her that Hays had abused her, Ms. Hays said.

"I was praying to God it wasn't true," she said. "It was hard for me to accept that Steve would do anything like that."

She added, "You don't play games with Steve. ... I'm very much afraid of him."

But less than a month later, she sent Hays a postcard asking him if he wanted to visit the girl. The postcard only gave a post office box in Ormond Beach as a way to contact her.

Foster parents have cared for the girl since deputies found her in September withher maternal grandmother, Evelyn Kaye, in St. Augustine.

Ms. Kaye was arrested for having custody of the girl in defiance of a court order.

After Ms. Kaye was released on bail, another warrant was issued for her arrest. She failed to show up for two court-ordered psychiatric evaluations to determine her mental competence to stand trial.

Ms. Kaye has been accused by another daughter, Trish Moyers, of being mentally ill and a practitioner of the occult, satanism and voodoo. Ms. Kaye has denied those allegations.

Testimony on Tuesday also focused on the relationship of Hays to his current wife's children by a previous marriage. The boy and girl have accused Hays of sexually abusing them.

But Jack Bentley Jr., a licensed counselor in Alabama who interviewed the children, testified that those accusations are false and came from the prompting of their father, Mike Elmore.

Bentley also said he thought it unlikely, based on medical reports, that Hays abused his 4-year-old daughter.

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