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Richard Cook, US citizen, dodges custody battle; flees to America with daughter, Zoe

by Keisha Milligan
COROZAL, Thurs. Feb. 8, 2007
Amandala late this evening spoke with a very worried mother, Jenecia Cook, a resident of La Democracia village, in hopes that she had gotten a positive feedback from Miami police after she had her worst fears confirmed yesterday, that her estranged husband, Richard Daniel Cook, 63, an American, had spirited their daughter, Zoe, 6, to the United States of America over the weekend.
When we first made contact with Jenecia on Tuesday, February 6, she was worried and convinced that her husband had taken her daughter out of the country, because she had tried many times to get through to him and could not. She explained that she and her husband are going through the Family Court to settle custody of Zoe. However, they were at the stage where the court had ordered that Zoe remain with her mother, and the father was allowed to have her every other weekend.
Last weekend was one of those weekends that Richard had his daughter. He picked her up from her school in La Democracia, at St. John’s Anglican Primary School, on Friday evening, February 2. On Sunday, she called Richard’s cellular phone, but it was turned off. She knew that he would sometimes take Zoe to church and thought that he might have taken off the phone because he was in church.
Later that night, she called again, but the phone was still turned off, said Jenecia. She calmed down after reminding herself that he sometimes kept her until Monday mornings and would take her directly to school. She would have her that afternoon for lunch.
That morning, she placed a call to the prosecutor that had attended to her court case and informed him that Richard had taken Zoe over the allotted time period and that furthermore, she could not get through to him. She was told to give him until that afternoon, but a call placed to the school confirmed that Zoe had not been in classes for that day.
Jenecia checked all over, but could not find Richard or her daughter.
Her appearance on the local television shows afterwards bore a small fruit: the Belize Immigration Department contacted her yesterday, and confirmed her fears, that Richard had indeed left the country with their daughter. Jenecia wonders how Richard could have gotten the child out of the country.
She said that early last year, Richard took Jenecia to the United States for three days, but the Immigration Department had requested that she signed a letter saying that she had given him, the father, permission to take her out of the country. That same letter, said Jenecia, must have been altered in such a way that the Immigration Department  let Richard take her daughter through.
The Immigration Department informed her that Richard left on Saturday, February 3, the day after he got Zoe, and was bound for Miami. He had traveled with Zoe on her own American passport, said authorities.
She also got a call from a friend of Richard’s in Belize, who said that Richard heard about her worry and called to tell her that Zoe was doing fine, “so not to worry.”
Belizean authorities have since contacted their counterparts and requested that an Interpol check be set at each port of entry for Richard and Zoe.

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