Child custody battle in Forest Hills dentist slay caught on tape

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Queens Supreme Court jurors got a front row seat Wednesday to a tug-of-war in a child custody battle that prosecutors say led to the murder of a Forest Hills dentist allegedly arranged by his estranged wife .

Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal played a 52-minute video of 4-year-old Michelle Malakov being handed over by her mother, Dr. Mazoltuv Borukhova, to her father, Dr. Daniel Malakov, on Oct. 22, 2007. The transfer took place six days before the Uzbek immigrant was shot outside the Annadale Playground in Forest Hills.

Borukhova and her distant uncle, Mikhail Mallayev, are charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy.

Yar Triben, a cameraman, testified that Borukhova hired him to videotape the custody exchange as evidence at a future Family Court hearing.  The couple had been engaged in a bitter court struggle over the child that lasted more than two years.

The tape showed Borukhova, 35, telling her daughter in their apartment minutes before the transfer, “You’re going to stay there for a few days and I will bring you back.”

In the videotape, Malakov, who ran a private orthodontist practice in Forest Hills, joyfully welcomed Michelle at his house when suddenly Borukhova, with the wailing girl in her arms, shoved the dentist out of the way.

The father then took Michelle by her arms, but Borukhova held onto the girl’s legs as her father tried to bring her into his home.

“Take this. Take a shot of this,” Borukhova said as she ordered the cameraman to focus on the fracas.

Jurors watched with open mouths and shaking heads as the scuffle escalated when Daniel Malakov’s brother, Gavriel, tried blocking the camera, angering Borukhova’s mother, Esta. The matriarch shoved and hit Gavriel and cursed at him in their native Russian.

Eventually, Michelle was brought into Malakov’s home and the police were called in by a court-appointed social worker who was at the transfer of custody to make sure it went smoothly.

Prosecutors contend that Borukhova’s rage over the loss of her daughter is what prompted the internist to hire Mallayev, 51, to shoot Malakov  more than a year ago as he was dropping the child off at the Annadale Playground at 64th Road and Yellowstone Boulevard, to visit her mother.

It was Borukhova’s reluctance to let the dentist see the girl that cost her custody, court documents revealed Wednesday. David Schnall, Michelle’s law guardian, read to the jury a decision by Queens Family Court Judge Sydney Strauss on Oct. 3, 2007 that changed Michelle’s life.

The judge said Borukhova refused to let Malakov see his daughter by himself despite numerous orders by court-appointed child supervisors.

“What is of great concern to me is the well-being of this little girl,” Strauss said in his decision. “If there was ever a situation that cries out for immediate action, it is this.”

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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