Woman enters plea in international kidnap case
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (AP) — A woman accused of abducting her infant daughter from South Carolina 20 years ago pleaded not guilty Monday during her first court appearance after being extradited from Australia.
Dorothy Lee Barnett, 54, entered the plea before U.S. Magistrate Bristow Marchant. Her attorney requested that her bond hearing be delayed.
Barnett faces a count of parental kidnapping and two counts of falsifying U.S. passport applications. Authorities allege she did not have custody of her then 10-month-old daughter Savanna Catherine Todd when she took her from South Carolina back in 1994.
Barnett was found in Australia last year where she had been living under several aliases. She fought extradition but was finally returned to the United States last week.
Her attorney, Russell W. Mace III, told the judge he needs time to contact Barnett’s family and friends from out of state and the country to come vouch for his client. At a bond hearing a judge decides whether a defendant can be released after weighing whether he or she is a flight risk.
Mace told the judge his client had been back since Friday and he only met her for the first time Saturday.
He told reporters later that he has been in contact with Barnett by telephone since she was arrested and jailed in Australia last November. He would not comment further.
Barnett appeared before the judge in a gray-striped prison jumpsuit and there were shackles on her hands as she signed the court papers acknowledging her plea. She did not comment except to tell the judge she understood both the charges and that she would have to remain in jail at least until the bond hearing.
Conviction on the charges carries a maximum penalty of 30 years.
Authorities said that in 1994, Barnett left for a birthday party with her daughter and never returned. The previous year Barnett had filed for divorce from her husband, Benjamin Harris Todd III, a Kentucky native and former Charleston stockbroker.
The daughter has since been living a normal life in Australia, authorities said.
Prosecutors have not yet said just how Barnett was found in Australia after almost two decades.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams, who told the judge the government will oppose bond, would not comment following the hearing.