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Interpreter Seeking Custody of Deaf Girl

May 31, 1995

WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) _ An interpreter is fighting for custody of a deaf girl who says her father refuses to learn sign language.

``If I have to live with my dad, I’m alone all the time,″ 15-year-old Sonya Kinney said in sign language Tuesday prior to a district court hearing.

Sonya wants to live with Joanie Hughes, an interpreter for the county school system. Hughes is seeking permanent custody from parents Norman Kinny and Christyne Kinney Estes, who are no longer married.

Kinney’s two children moved in with him in January after Sonya told social workers her stepfather molested her twice. In February, Kinney allowed Sonya to begin living with Hughes. He later changed his mind, but Hughes won temporary custody pending a judge’s ruling.

Hughes told Judge Shelly Holt that Kinney has a history of neglecting his children and is in trouble with the law. Sonya has said that she is afraid of her father’s drinking.

Kinney says he no longer has a drinking problem. The self-employed painter faces larceny charges for allegedly stealing from a job site.

The hearing continues today.

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