By Ivan Pereira
Despite still hostile tensions between her mother and father’s relatives, the 5âˆ’yearâˆ’old who saw her father gunned down in a Forest Hills playground last year will remain in the care of her paternal uncle, a Queens Family Court judge ruled last week.
During the Oct. 29 hearing Judge Linda Tally ordered that the child, Michelle Malakov, not be moved to live with the relatives of her mother, Mazoltuv Borukhova, who is awaiting trial for allegedly plotting the murder of Michelle’s father, Daniel. The judge heard updates from attorneys representing Borukhova and Michelle’s law guardian on the girl’s condition since she began living with her uncle, Gavril Malakov, and decided that Michelle should not be relocated.
“As the court has repeatedly stated, the court has placed Michelle in the care of paternal relatives not for the benefit of the paternal relatives. It placed her there for what was best for Michelle,” the judge said.
Daniel Malakov, an Uzbek immigrant who ran a private orthodontics practice in Forest Hills, was killed as he was dropping off his daughter at the Annadale Playground on Oct. 28, 2007. He had arranged for Michelle to meet with her mother, also an Uzbek immigrant, who had lost custody of the girl days before the shooting.
Three weeks after the shooting, police arrested Borukhova’s distant uncle, Mikhail Mallayev, 51, at his suburban Atlanta home and charged him in the shooting. Investigators claim they matched fingerprints found on a makeshift silencer abandoned by the shooter to Mallayev’s prints. In February, police arrested Borukhova and charged her and Mallayev with firstâˆ’degree murder and conspiracy, contending she and her relative plotted for weeks to kill Malakov in revenge for gaining custody of Michelle.
Their joint trial is slated to begin sometime next year. If convicted, they both face up to life in prison without parole.
Immediately after the shooting, Michelle was placed in the care of the city Administration for Children’s Services, but was moved to her uncle’s care in April.
Michelle’s law guardian, David Schnall, said he had visited the 5âˆ’yearâˆ’old at Gavril Malakov’s residence several times and said she was doing well since the move, playing with her cousins and performing in school. She has, however, some serious psychological problems when it comes to her jailed mother’s current situation , Schnall told the judge.
Although she still loves Borukhova and thinks highly of her, Michelle becomes very disturbed and withdrawn after visiting her at Rikers Island, the law guardian said.
“She’s a bright girl and she knows what’s going on,” he said.
Florence Fass, Borukhova’s attorney, accused the Malakovs of tarnishing Michelle’s view of her mother. She pointed out that Gavril Malakov took his family and the girl on a vacation trip to the Dominican Republic in August and did not get permission from Borukhova to get Michelle a passport.
An attorney for the ACS said the trip was discussed with Borukhova and the family was able to get the passport through a nonprofit child services group called Ohel, which has provided a case worker to oversee Michelle’s case. The ACS attorney added that the family asked that the destination not be disclosed for safety reasons.
Fass told reporters that by taking Michelle out of the country without Borukhova’s permission, the Malakovs undermined her client’s rights as Michelle’s mother.
“If they wanted to bond as a family, they could have bonded in Florida,” she said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by eâˆ’mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 146.