2 accused of aiding mom in lesbian custody case
BUFFALO, New York (AP) — A woman accused of fleeing the country with her daughter during a custody dispute with her former partner has been indicted on new charges along with a Virginia businessman and a Mennonite missionary who prosecutors say helped her after she said she was no longer a lesbian.
Business owner Philip Zodhiates is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday on charges he brought Lisa Miller to Buffalo in September 2009 and helped her and her daughter, Isabella, cross the border into Canada.
Zodhiates, Miller and missionary Timothy Miller were charged in a federal indictment last month with international parental kidnapping and conspiracy, but only Zodhiates is believed to be in the country and available to answer the charges in court. He did not return a call for comment Tuesday.
Lisa Miller and Timothy Miller, who are not related, are believed to be in Central America, where Timothy Miller worked as a missionary. He has acknowledged helping Lisa Miller and her daughter, who’s now 12 years old, reach Nicaragua.
The girl’s other parent, Janet Jenkins, has been seeking her return for five years.
“Isabella, like any other child, deserves to grow up in her home country with parents and relatives who love her,” Jenkins said in a statement provided by her attorney, Sarah Star.
Jenkins and Lisa Miller entered a civil union in Vermont in 2000 and split in 2003.
After their separation, a Vermont family court gave custody of Isabella to Miller with regular visitation for Jenkins, but Miller later sought full custody after moving to Virginia, becoming a conservative Christian and renouncing homosexuality.
Following a lengthy legal fight, Miller disappeared with Isabella shortly before a Vermont court transferred custody to Jenkins.
Star said Janet believes “that her daughter is still in Central America in the company of Lisa Miller and the Amish Mennonite community.”
Miller was charged in a 2010 federal criminal complaint in Vermont with international parental kidnapping. That case is pending.
According to the New York indictment, Zodhiates, Lisa Miller and Isabella traveled from Virginia to Buffalo on Sept. 21, 2009. Zodhiates, the indictment said, spoke by phone with someone in Canada who agreed to help Miller once she crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Niagara Falls, Ontario, the next day.
Zodhiates also spoke with a Mennonite pastor from Virginia who was convicted of related charges in 2012, the indictment said. The pastor, Kenneth Miller, was found guilty of aiding in international parental kidnapping for helping arrange flights for Lisa Miller and Isabella. He has appealed his conviction. He is not related to Lisa Miller.
Associated Press writer Wilson Ring contributed from Vermont.