As Dr. Elizabeth Morgan enjoys her first days of freedom after 25 months in jail in a bitter parental visitation rights battle, her ex-husband is stepping up efforts to locate their daughter.
"I'm catching my breath now, and I'm beginning to adjust to being out," Morgan says. "But things like the weather - noticing the weather, that's just one thing I couldn't do when I was in jail."Morgan, 42, was jailed on civil contempt of court charges in August 1987 for failing to produce her daughter, Hilary, for court-ordered visits with Dr. Eric Foretich, her 46-year-old ex-husband and the girl's father.
Morgan alleges that Foretich sexually abused the girl, now 7; Foretich, who denies those charges, claims that Morgan is mentally ill.
Hilary remains hidden at an undisclosed location, and Morgan has vowed that she will go without seeing her daughter until the girl turns 18 if necessary to protect her.
On Wednesday, Foretich announced that he was establishing a fund to pay for efforts to search for his daughter, and he once again called upon Morgan to produce the child.
"Hilary is the ultimate loser in all of this," Foretich said. "I want to see her safe, returned, with her rights restored."
Foretich says he is establishing the fund because the costs of his extensive legal battle with Morgan and fees charged by previous private investigators have left him financially strapped. He also claims that his once-thriving oral surgery practice has dropped off, and he blames negative publicity surrounding the case.
Morgan was freed on Monday, after President Bush signed a bill designed to limit civil contempt of court jailings in district child custody cases. The legislation moved at lightning pace through the House and Senate as lawmakers responded to Morgan's plight with an urgency like that reserved for matters of national emergency.
But the bill contained a provision that calls for it to pass out of existence after 18 months, which means Morgan could wind up in jail again, particularly if Foretich makes good on his pledge to keep fighting for his visitation rights.
"I would go back to jail," Morgan says. "Not to be cavalier, but after this experience, I could do it again, though of course I wouldn't want to."
After Morgan was freed Monday, Elaine Mittleman, Foretich's attorney, said future legal action against Morgan is likely.
"She remains in contempt of court, and this law doesn't change that," Mittleman said. "That's not being vengeful, that's just what the law is about."
Meanwhile, Morgan has had her hair styled and been to the dentist since her release, scheduling those mundane chores around interviews with scores of reporters.
She says she is restricted to the Washington area for the next week because her fiance, federal appeals court judge Paul R. Michel, has a heavy workload.
After that, she says, "We plan to disappear, to take some time together.
"We both need that."
Foretich, in contrast, can only plot his next legal move and hope that private investigators he has hired can come up with a clue to his daughter's whereabouts.
He is also anxious, like Morgan, to drop out of the harsh glare of public scrutiny.
"I do not have any desire to be a media person," Foretich said.