A Tennessee pastor was in federal court in Burlington Monday morning charged with helping a former Vermont woman involved in a lesbian custody dispute.
Timothy Miller had no words for Channel 3 News as he left the Burlington Federal District courtroom Monday. Authorities believe he helped Lisa Miller -- they are not related. Miller fled to Nicaragua with her biological daughter Isabella to avoid a court order that she turn over custody of the girl to her former civil union partner Janet Jenkins.
"I believe that my higher power is going to bring her back to me -- safe. And this, clearly, is in the right direction," she said.
Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000. Isabella was born to Miller and the couple broke up shortly after. Miller renounced homosexuality, became an evangelical Christian and moved to Virginia. She was originally granted custody of Isabella, but her refusal to obey orders granting Jenkins visitation led to a protracted court fight. Eventually full custody of Isabella was granted to Jenkins. But rather than hand over the child, Miller took Isabella and fled to Nicaragua. Now Jenkins wants answers.
"I certainly think that anyone that has helped have my daughter taken to a third world country where she doesn't eat the food, she doesn't speak the language. She's basically being kept in a house," Jenkins said.
Timothy Miller is described by authorities as a pastor in an Mennonite church. He's charged with aiding in international parental kidnapping, which carries a potential three-year prison term. He's accused of providing Lisa Miller and the girl with travel assistance and a place to live outside the U.S. The FBI says Timothy Miller has family in Nicaragua. It has been more than two years since Jenkins has seen her daughter. The Jenkins family says they will wait as long as it takes to be reunited with Isabella.
"We pray for her safe return everyday. Everyday -- everyday," Jenkins said.
The FBI believes Lisa Miller and Isabella are still in Nicaragua. Timothy Miller will be back in Vermont for a probable cause hearing on May 10th.
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