Lisa Miller, a former Vermont woman wanted for more than a decade in a high-profile same sex child custody case, has been arrested after turning herself in.
She was wanted since 2010 when a warrant for her arrest was issued after she was accused of fleeing the country with the child she had during a since dissolved civil union. Miller fought to keep the child from her former domestic partner, Janet Jenkins, and when the courts eventually sided with Jenkins, she vanished. Her arrest was reported by The Associated Press and other news outlets.
The case generated major news coverage at the time because it raised questions about the rights of same-sex couples, especially when different states offered different laws on civil unions. Miller said she had forsaken her homosexuality and was aligned with Christian causes, including Liberty Counsel, a legal group.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Child, Now 18, Is Still Believed to Be Overseas
According to VTDigger.org, Miller “turned herself in to authorities in Nicaragua,” and was being held at a Miami, Florida, detention center.
The site said that the child, Isabella, is now believed to be 18 and still living in Nicaragua. Dallas Voice reported that Miller and Isabella both turned themselves in to the U.S. Embassy.
Sarah Star, Janet Jenkins’ lawyer, told VTDigger on behalf of Jenkins: “I just want Isabella to know that I love her very much and that I have never stopped loving her. Isabella has a family and support system here who will always welcome her home with open arms.”
2. Lisa Was Artificially Inseminated While the Couple Was in a Civil Union
The ACLU posted a summary of the case on its website.
“Janet and Lisa Miller-Jenkins lived in Virginia, and traveled to Vermont to enter into a civil union,” it explains.
“Back in Virginia, they decided to have a child, and Lisa was artificially inseminated. Lisa gave birth to Isabella in April 2002. A couple of months later, Lisa, Janet and Isabella moved to Vermont.”
The post says that Isabella “bonded with both women, who both acted as mothers to her. In 2003, the couple split up. Lisa moved with Isabella to Virginia. Lisa then filed a petition for dissolution of the civil union in Vermont family court. As part of the civil union dissolution, Lisa conceded that Janet had parental rights to Isabella and in light of that fact asked the the Vermont court to determine custody of Isabella.”
Another court document reads, “After initially allowing Janet to visit IMJ in June, Lisa thereafter refused to permit Janet to have contact with IMJ as required by the terms of the Vermont custody order.”
However, a series of court battles followed. At the time, the women were known as Lisa Miller-Jenkins and Janet Miller-Jenkins.
3. The Courts Eventually Awarded Janet Custody Because Lisa Wouldn’t Give Her Court-Ordered Visitation Rights
A court document says that a Vermont Court issued a temporary custody order granting Lisa primary physical custody and Janet visitation rights.
The courts eventually determined that Janet and Lisa were both “legal parents” of the girl and Lisa “was in contempt of court for refusing to allow Janet visitation.”
In 2006, the Vermont Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the orders of the lower court.
Lisa objected to Janet having visitation rights and filed a court action asking the court to declare she was the “sole parent” and the only person with parental rights over the child.
In 2004, the court ruled that Lisa was “the only parent… and that neither Janet ‘nor any other person has any claims of parentage or visitation rights.’” According to the ACLU, the judge relied on an act that rendered civil unions invalid at the time.
But Janet appealed that decision. A higher court reversed that decision.
The courts ruled that Vermont was the proper jurisdiction for the case.
There were then various appellate court battles. Lisa eventually asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene, but they did not. In 2009, according to the ACLU, Lisa was ordered to comply with the Vermont orders.
“On November 20, 2009, the Vermont Court ordered that custody be transferred from Lisa to Janet on January 1, 2010,” the ACLU wrote. “…Lisa did not transfer Isabella to Janet as ordered, and both Lisa and Isabella are missing.”
Or at least they were missing – until now.
4. Janet Made Heartfelt Pleas for Isabella’s Return Over the Years
In 2010, the advocacy organization GLAD released a statement from Janet. It read:
I am so worried about Isabella. I do not know where she is or whether she is okay.
Isabella is my daughter. Lisa and I decided together to have a child, and that we would use alternative reproductive technology to do so. We picked out a donor together. I was there with Lisa when she gave birth to Isabella. We gave her both our last names, since we were both her parents. After Isabella was born, Lisa and I cared for her together. We both fed her, played with her, changed her diapers, and loved her.
Eventually, the courts ruled that I was Isabella’s parent, but in my heart I’ve always known that. It was devastating to me, as I’m sure it was to Isabella, when Lisa withheld contact between me and my daughter.
My goal has never been to separate Isabella from Lisa. I just want Isabella to know and love both of her parents. I just want to be with her, like any parent. Please help me find my child.
5. An Ordained Minister Was Accused of Helping Lisa, Who Allegedly ‘Renounced Her Former Lesbian Life,’ Flee With the Child to Nicaragua
A man who said he was an ordained minister named Timothy David (Timo) Miller was accused of aiding in international parental kidnapping of minor Isabella Ruth Miller-Jenkins “by Lisa Miller and other unknown persons.”
An email recounted in the complaint against him says, “Lisa filed to dissolve the civil union in 2003, and moved with Isabella, who was then 17 months old, to the Winchester area of Virginia. She renounced her former lesbian life. Lisa returned to her Christian faith in 2003. She and Isabella attend Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg.”
The complaint continues, “Bank records show that Lisa Ann Miller received multiple payroll checks from the Lynchburg Christian Academy Payroll Account.”
The criminal complaint alleged that he helped Lisa Miller (no relation), saying, “This crime involved removing a child from the United States on or about September 22, 2009, and retaining a child who has been in the United States, outside of the United States from September 2009 to the present, with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise of parental rights by Janet Jenkins.”
The complaint alleges that Timothy Miller “provided assistance for Lisa Miller and IMJ’s travel outside of the United States. Timothy Miller provided a place of shelter to Lisa Miller and IMJ outside of the United States.”
According to that complaint, on April 27, 2010, “a Criminal Complaint and Arrest Warrant for Lisa Miller were issued.”
The complaint continues, “Pursuant to a Grand Jury subpoena, Mexicana Airlines provided that on September 22, 2009, Lisa A. Miller and IMJ departed Toronto, Ontario and arrived in Mexico City, Mexico on Mexicana Flight 887. Pursuant to a Grand Jury subpoena, TACA Airlines provided that on September 22, 2009, Lisa Miller and IMJ departed Mexico City Juarez International Airport and arrived at El Salvador International Airport on TACA Flight 0231.” They then went to Managua, Nicaragua.
The complaint contains another email that says, “Timo Miller will meet you at the airport and hold up a sign with your name. He is a pastor of an Arnish-Mennonite church in Managua who is with Christian Aid Ministries (Ohio).”
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