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Woman in same-sex custody case who fled the US held in Miami



Woman in same-sex custody case who fled the US held in Miami

A woman who allegedly fled the United States for Nicaragua in 2009 rather than share custody of her child with her former same-sex partner has been arrested in Miami.

Federal court records say that Lisa Miller was taken into federal custody Jan. 27. She is awaiting transfer to Buffalo, New York, where she was indicted in 2014 on international parental kidnapping charges.

Miller’s attorney did not return an email Monday seeking comment. But a federal court filing said Miller was invoking her right to silence.

Sarah Star, the Vermont attorney for Lisa Miller’s former civil union partner Janet Jenkins, of Fair Haven, Vermont, said Jenkins is concerned that the child, Isabella, who is now an adult, did not return to the United States from Nicaragua.

“I just want Isabella to know that I love her very much and that I have never stopped loving her,” Jenkins said in a news release issued by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been representing her in a civil lawsuit against the people they allege helped Miller and her daughter flee. “Isabella has a family and support system here who will always welcome her home with open arms.”

Miller and Jenkins were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000, shortly after the state became the first to recognize same-sex relationships.

The two women had a child through artificial insemination and later broke up. Miller, the biological mother, moved to Virginia and was given custody, with the Vermont family court granting Jenkins visitation.

Miller, who wanted to deny Jenkins contact with the child, appealed the custody case for years, but ultimately the courts in Virginia and Vermont determined the case would be bound by the Vermont family court order.

After allegedly defying visitation orders and it becoming clear she would lose custody, Miller disappeared in September 2009 with Isabella, who at the time was 7.

In a trip arranged by supporters — many of them Mennonites — Miller and her daughter were taken to Buffalo, New York, where they crossed into Canada and then flew to Nicaragua, where they had remained.

In 2012, Kenneth Miller, of Stuart’s Draft, Virginia, was convicted in federal court in Vermont of helping Lisa Miller flee. In 2013 he was sentenced to 27 months in prison. He has since been released.

The Millers are not related.

In 2017 Philip Zodhiates, a businessman from Waynesboro, Virginia, was convicted in a separate case filed in Buffalo, New York, of helping them flee. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Federal Bureau of Prison records say he is scheduled to be released in June.

The daughter, Isabella Miller, is now an adult. She is being represented by Vermont attorney Deborah Bucknam, who declined Monday to comment on the case or say where she is now.

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