ENCINO (CBSLA.com) — An Encino mother is overjoyed to have her 14-year-old son back in her custody after her father allegedly took him from her home almost two years ago.
Stephanie Byrd said her only child, Zachary, lived with his grandparents in Florida for much of his life because she signed temporary guardianship over to them as she pursued higher education.
The mother, however, said when she was about to graduate and bring her son home to Southern California, her parents had other ideas.
"They started hiding Zachary and wouldn't let me see him, and that kicked off a three-year guardianship battle to win him back," she told CBS2's Suzie Suh via Skype.
Byrd eventually won the battle and brought Zachary home to Encino.
She said everything appeared to be fine until the night of Sept. 2, 2011.
A home security camera captured Zachary tiptoeing around the house, grabbing bags and eventually leaving.
"I looked in at his bed, and that's when I noticed that he wasn't in it," said Byrd.
Byrd suspected her father, 59-year-old Donald Byrd, took Zachary.
The mother spent years trying to find him.
"For months at a time there would be no sightings at all and then there would be a bunch of sightings," she said. "The need to keep going mixed with the despair of not knowing. I don't know if he's alive or he's dead. If he's safe or getting care."
The sightings were in Florida, but in South Carolina Tuesday, Zachary was found alive with his grandfather.
Donald Byrd was arrested at his home in Myrtle Beach for child stealing.
"I don't understand why they would do this to their own grandson," said Byrd.
The mother said she's angry, but she has placed those emotions aside for what she called the more important ones.
"I can't wait to see him tomorrow, hug him and tell him that he's loved," she said. "I haven't thought beyond 'I love you.' Nothing else seems to matter at the moment."
Byrd added, "It is the happiest day of my life next to the day Zachary was born."
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