Slain dentist's family closer to custody

February 13, 2008 3:47:12 PM PST
At 4 years old, she has seen far more than most children. She witnessed the murder of her father in a playground, and then the arrest of her mother.Now, little Michelle Malakov is at the center of a bitter custody battle.

Eyewitness News reporter NJ Burkett has the story.

In a home video before she was placed in foster care, Michelle Malakov is seen laughing and dancing with her Russian-American cousins just five days after her father was murdered outside their neighborhood playground.

Daniel Malakov had just been awarded custody of his daughter, and brought her to the park at the request of his estranged wife, Mazoltov Borakhova.

Last week, Borakhova was charged with murder and conspiracy for allegedly hiring her uncle, Mikhail Mallayev, to commit the murder. Michelle was placed in foster care after her father's family was accused of mistreating her.

On Wednesday, a family court judge in Queens found those allegations to be false. The Malakov's are determined to regain custody of Michelle.

"She's my brother's child and, you know, I think everybody feels that, especially when it's your relative, you have this's natural," the victim's brother, Joseph Malakov, said.

"The child has been through a lot of trauma in the past six months, to say the least," family law expert Nancy Chemtob said. "Her father is dead. Her mother is in jail. She's been in foster care with a non-related person."

Chemtob says Michelle belongs with the Malakovs.

"The child 100 percent should be with the paternal grandparents," she said.

And the judge appears to be moving in that direction. Another hearing is planned for March, which could put Michelle back with her father's family indefinitely.