Internationally Parentally Kidnapped South Carolina Girl Found In Australia After 19 YearsAfter a 19 year search, internationally parentally kidnapped victim Savanna Harris Todd of South Carolina was located in Queensland, Australia. Similar to other victims of parental abduction, Savanna Harris Todd lived the life of a fugitive: moving from country to country, including New Zealand and South Africa under an assortment of alias names, before she and her kidnapping mother, Dorothy Lee Barnett, were located in Australia. Unquestionably, the story of how Savanna Harris Todd was able to move under the radar of a global law enforcement for nearly two decades despite a never-ending search for his daughter led by her father Benjamin Harris Todd sends out a loud and resounding message to courts and judges everywhere overseeing international child travel, international mobility, and international parental child abduction prevention of the great risks and relative ease a parent can disappear with a child if the act of abduction is well thought-out and planned.
Kidnapping parent Dorothy Lee Barnett is now facing a series of federal charges including but not limited to kidnapping, forgery, and possession of fraudulent documents. She is expected to be extradited to the United States in the near future.
Peter Thomas Senese of the I CARE Foundation, a leading non-profit organization dedicated to stopping global international parental child abduction while also assisting at-risk families of abduction commented, "First, I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to Benjamin Harris Todd for his incredible efforts in never stopping to find his daughter. Clearly the love and dedication he holds for his daughter Savanna are extraordinary. Hopefully Savanna will recognize the love of her father while also carefully coming to terms of the malice brought into her life by her mother. I am sure there will be a great deal of reflection as this young lady reflects upon events in her life and realizes the extent of what she faced and the truth of part of her life. And as the healing and reunification begins, it is imperative that judges and courts understand that threats of international parental child abduction are not custody disputes under any circumstance. They are acts of brutal kidnapping that can at times end horribly. Today we celebrate the pending reunion of father and daughter as we also rededicate ourselves to bring about sweeping change to stop worldwide international parental child abduction. Most of all, I hope and pray that this young lady takes the time to listen to what her father has to say to her before she makes any judgments. All too often in long-term abduction cases, the child is an unknown victim who has been manipulated by untruth after untruth by their abductor."
In 1994, Savanna Harris Todd had been listed as a missing person by her father in South Carolina. She was 11 months old at the time that Benjamin Harris Todd, the child's sole custodial parent, had filed the report to local authorities.
On April 22nd, 1994 Barnett, who had been separated from Harris, picked up her daughter from her former mother-in-laws home and disappeared the next day.
In many international parental child abduction cases the abducting parent often will travel to one country but then move quickly to another. Often the first inbound country will be where new identities are obtained, as is suspected in the Barnett abduction case.
During a court appearance, Barnett, 'winked' back at her daughter Savanna - who was supportive of her mother. On the surface, the abducted child-victim now turned young adult has not yet fully understood the ramifications or truths that transpired in her life. Clearly, and after all this time, parental alienation has to be a key factor that all parties need to address.
Barnett's barrister, Jeff Hunter QC, said his client was not a flight risk and had a close and special relationship with the Sunshine Coast community.
Barnett was charged with international parental kidnapping and two counts of false statement in a passport application after being captured on November 4. Barnett will be extradited back to the United States to face her charges.
She is thought to have fled the United States using a fake passport with the help of a secretive organization called Children of the Underground, who help women stuck in abusive relationships.
According to Queensland news reports, Barnett initially fled to South Africa, where she married a man, Juan Geldenhuys, in 1995 and later gave birth to a son, now 17, before moving to New Zealand and becoming a citizen.
Five years ago she settled in Australia after splitting with Mr Geldenhuys, who recently died of bone cancer. During her alleged time on the run, Barnett used aliases such as Alexandria Maria Canton, federal authorities said, to evade detection.
Once in March 2003 and again in March 2004, Barnett used her new name, Alexandria Maria Geldenhuys, to attempt to get a U.S. passport, according to the indictment against her.
Court papers say Savanna's father was the one who lead authorities to find his ex-wife.
An Australian friend of Mr Geldenhuys, Barnett's second husband, had grown suspicious of her.
He heard Barnett call her daughter Savanna and she had previously spoken about escaping an abusive relationship. A simple internet search provided old photos of Barnett as wanted in relation to the disappearance of Savanna, and the Australian man was able to contact Benjamin Harris Todd.
Outside court this week, Savanna- Samantha - would not comment when approached by reporters.
Todd countered, saying Barnett physically and emotionally abused him. That month, Todd was given temporary custody of his unborn daughter after psychiatric tests showed Barnett to be bi-polar.
Savanna was born May 6, 1993.
During a court-supervised visit in April 1994, the two left for a birthday party without an escort and never returned, the police reported at the time. Barnett’s disappearance prompted a probe by the FBI, which obtained a warrant for her arrest in April 1994.
If convicted of the charges she is facing, Barnett could spend three years in prison on the kidnapping charge and 10 years on each of the two passport counts. Barnett will next appear at an extradition hearing in Australia.