y ROBERT GAVIN Staff writer
Updated 08:44 p.m., Wednesday, May 11, 2011
TROY -- For more than a year, the family of Ashley Marie Carroll has coped with the Troy woman's mysterious disappearance in Albany.
On Wednesday they received jolting news: A judge placed the missing woman's daughter, 2-year-old Arioniah Ahmed, in the custody of her biological father from New Jersey, who was confirmed as the child's parent through a DNA test.
Devastated family members exited a second-floor courtroom in Rensselaer County Family Court clearly distraught about the decision in the custody battle involving a child whose parent has been missing since May 6, 2010.
"We're heartbroken," said John Gilleran of Albany, Carroll's uncle, in a phone interview after the decision from Judge Elizabeth M. Walsh was made behind closed doors. "First, Ashley was taken from us. Now the granddaughter is being taken from the mom."
Margaret Carroll, the missing woman's mother, who said she had taken care of the child, told the Times Union she was "very unhappy with the decision." She attended the hearing, as did Jamal Ahmed, the husband of Ashley Carroll, whose name the child has carried.
Walsh placed the child in the custody of James Farrow of New Jersey after determining him to be the biological father, said his attorney, Douglas Broda. Farrow, joined by his mother and sister, flashed a smile after he left the courtroom.
"I'm happy I got my daughter," he said.
The girl's uncle and grandmother said an arrangement was made to transfer the child to Farrow on Wednesday afternoon.
Walsh closed the court proceedings to the media following requests from Broda and Heather Dukes, an attorney for the child. The judge took 10 minutes to decide on the matter of whether a reporter should be allowed in court. Upon her return, she asked the Times Union to leave the courtroom.
Dukes had argued a public hearing could be harmful to the child, calling past publicity of her mother's disappearance "sensationalized."
Carroll went missing May 6, 2010, after being dropped off in Albany's West Hill. She has not been heard from since.
In January, investigators said the woman's disappearance was being probed for possible ties to two other missing persons cases: Donald Green, 50, of Schenectady, known as "Uncle Noonie," last spotted exiting the Silver Slipper bar in Albany on Feb. 26, 2010, and Steven Jackson, 41, of Guilderland, who disappeared June 13, 2010, in Albany.
Police and prosecutors believe Jackson, a high-level marijuana dealer, was killed after being kidnapped at a marijuana storage house at 40 Parkwood St, near New Scotland Avenue.
Investigators have said his captors planned to rob him of drugs and money as he awaited some 500 pounds of marijuana.
Gino "G" Uzzell, 48, and Anthony "Inf" Davis, 40, have pleaded guilty in the case, while Jason "Jay" Benn, 37; and Rickey "L" Thornton, 41; and Louis "God" Chaney, 43, are charged with second-degree murder and kidnapping charges.
Benn, who an indictment said dumped the body "beneath the surface, where it was unlikely to be found," rejected a plea offer Wednesday to serve 18 years in prison in exchange for a guilty plea to second-degree kidnapping.
Reach Robert Gavin at 434-2403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.