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Sunday, October 24, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mom's Death Leads To Custody Battle -- Grandparents Fight To Raise 4-Year-Old

AP

MOUNT VERNON - A 4-year-old girl trying to come to grips with accusations that her father killed her mother is becoming the focus of a custody tug of war between her grandmothers.

"Alysha's doing pretty good," Barbara Torres of Anacortes said of her granddaughter. "But she's very angry at her father."

Alysha's father, Michael McGuffey of Mount Vernon, is charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 27 death of his ex-wife - Torres' daughter, Michele McGuffey. Witnesses told investigators McGuffey shot her while the two sat in her parked car outside a Mount Vernon restaurant. The two apparently met to discuss their recent divorce.

Torres and Michael McGuffey's mother, Anita McGuffey, both said they will fight for custody of Alysha.

Anita McGuffey said by telephone from her home in Brownwood, Texas, that she and her husband are "going for full custody and will fight our hearts out."

"We'll sell everything we have to get that little girl," she said.

But Torres said she won't let anyone take Alysha away from her.

"She's all I have left of Shelley and I'll fight for her," Torres said.

Michael McGuffey remains at large. His car was found Oct. 9 parked at a Motel 6 in South Everett. Mount Vernon police say they found evidence in the vehicle linking him to the killing but would not elaborate.

Torres has temporary custody of Alysha. That temporary order must be renewed every two weeks, said Torres' attorney, Mary

McIntosh of Mount Vernon.

"The court will look at the health of the custodian and the best interests of the child," McIntosh said Tuesday. "This little girl, since February, has lived at Barbara's house. So who is the most obvious person to have custody? Not somebody from Texas."

Torres and Alysha are under police protection and will remain so until McGuffey is caught, police said.

The girl is undergoing counseling to deal with her parents' divorce and her mother's death, Torres said.

Anita McGuffey said her granddaughter would be safer living in Texas.

"Michael's not going to come back here," she said. "Everyone here is looking for him. He's more likely to go after her if she's with Barbara. He wouldn't worry about Alysha here with us."

Anita McGuffey and her husband have contacted a Mount Vernon attorney about the case.

Anita McGuffey said she talked on the telephone to Alysha in the days following the shooting but said she has not been able to contact her recently.

"I want her to know that I'll always be there for her," McGuffey said. "I've just got to talk to her. She probably thinks I've abandoned her, and that her daddy's abandoned her, too."

Torres said she helped raise her granddaughter for the past three years, and will not give her up.

"We need to start pushing and shoving on this," Torres said. "Alysha needs to be raised in this area where the people who loved her mother are."

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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