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Eight years later, father finds out son is in Denver, launches custody fight

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Eight years after his son was taken to Mexico without his permission, a Commerce City father is fighting for custody of his son.  In March, Richard Llamas learned his son Ricardo Jr. was had been living in Denver with the boy’s uncle since July.

“I want my son to know his father,” Llamas said.

The 26-year-old hadn’t seen his son since 2008, when the boy was just 6 months old. That’s when Llamas said his ex-girlfriend Marisol Maldonado took their son to her home country of Mexico.

Llamas tells the FOX31 Denver Problem Solvers that as soon as he found the pair in her hometown, his ex-girlfriend disappeared with the boy again. Depressed and out of money to continue the search, Llamas said he came back to Denver.

“I’m not going to lie to you, after a couple of years I thought I’m not going to see him again,” Llamas said.

But in early March, Llamas’ new wife Yolanda Montes found the boy son on Facebook. Montes said through a little detective work, she figured out the boy was attending Green Valley Ranch Elementary School in Denver,  living with his mother's brother Mario Maldonado. The mother is not a U.S. citizen and still lives in Mexico.

“He's been very desperate. That's all he's been talking about since I met him is that he had a son,” Montes said of Llamas.

The pair called the Denver Police Department and were told since the mother is out of the country and there’s no custody agreement, Llamas could go get his son.

"Went to the house and I knocked and the grandma opened the door. She was shocked to see me. I was like 'Where's my son at?’ That's the first thing I said,” Llamas said.

The father-son reunion only lasted a weekend. Maldonado filed a legal petition to get his nephew back, writing in court documents, “With us (Ricardo Jr.) has a stable household and Ricardo's half-sisters are living there too. Ricardo has never met his dad until this weekend when he took him. "

A Denver County judge granted temporary custody to Maldonado but ordered the father be allowed supervised visits.

The Problem Solvers went to Maldonado’s house to ask why he never told Llamas that his son was back in Denver.  He refused to answer the questions but his attorney Randy Corporon justified the legal maneuver.

"Is it in the best interest of a child to be picked up by a dad that he doesn’t know?” Corporon said.

When asked why his client had been playing keep away with an 8-year-old boy since July, Corporon said, "They've been looking out for the best intentions and the best interest of this child every step of the way. I don't know that they were playing keep away. That's the allegation. We shall see."

Ron Litvak is a family law attorney who said a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000 should benefit the biological father.

“When you have a fit parent, they are supposed to have a preference in a case that involves a contest between a parent and a nonparent," Litvak said.

The two sides are due back in a Denver County courtroom Thursday.

Llamas served three years in prison for accessory to attempted murder but said his past should not be used against him.  He said it would be unfair for his ex-girlfriend and her family to be rewarded for playing keep away for so long.

Llamas said he has bought his son a bed and a Broncos poster to hang on the bedroom wall for the day he comes home permanently.

"I don't want to miss out on any more days. I want to be a father.  I want him to grow up with a father figure.  He hasn't had that. I just don't want to let him go no more,” Llamas said.

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