SURF CITY, NC (WECT) - It's difficult to imagine the pain of having your child taken from you. But that is exactly what a Surf City man is dealing with after his estranged wife took their young son to Guatemala a year ago and never returned.
Don Seagraves is in the midst of a gut wrenching battle to get his son back.
"I need to see my son, and I need to make sure he's ok, and to be honest with you he needs to be with his father," said Seagraves.
Don met his wife, Ivonne, while she was in the country on a Visa. She worked at the restaurant where he was a manager - and they eventually got married and had a son, Urijiajh.
They moved from Texas to Surf City, hoping for a quieter, safer life, but Don says Ivonne wasn't happy here.
"She couldn't work legally, and she couldn't get a license, so basically, she was restricted from those alone to being a stay at home mom," explained Don.
Don says those problems pushed them apart, and his wife moved out of their home and into a women's and children's shelter. They shared joint custody of their son, but Don says his wife wanted to move to back to Guatemala, where her family lived.
A local judge agreed to let Ivonne take Urijajh out of the country for four months last summer, but she never returned. It's been more than a year since Don saw or spoke to his son.
"Not knowing how he does every day, I don't know if he's been sick, and I don't know if he's getting the help that he needs to be able to help with his speech," said Don. "I don't even know if he's learning English to be honest with you."
Don says passport records indicate Ivonne and four-year-old Urijajh are in Guatemala, but beyond that, he doesn't even know where to look.
Local attorney Mark Spencer Williams has taken Don's case pro bono. He helped him get a court order granting Don sole custody of Urijajh, and filed a Hague petition asking for Guatemala's help locating and returning the child.
Still, Williams knows that even if everything goes well, it could be years before Don gets Urijajh back. "Donald needs a lot of help, these things are expensive. even if we're helping him for free, he's got costs of a private investigator in Guatemala to try and find his son, he's got the cost of an attorney in Guatemala," he said.
Since Urijajh was born here, he is a US citizen, and the US has jurisdiction to get him back - if Don and authorities can find him. Williams tells us Guatemala has just accepted Don's Hague petition and is trying to find Ivonne and Urijajh. Interpol has also been contacted to help locate the child.