BURLINGTON — A Virginia pastor worked with a number of other people to help a woman flee the United States with her daughter rather than share custody of the girl with the mother’s former lesbian partner, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
The trial of Kenneth Miller of Stuarts Draft, Va., 46, opened in U.S. District Court in Burlington. In his opening statement, Miller’s lawyer said he will prove his client believed Lisa Miller had full custody of daughter Isabella.
“Kenneth Miller thought that she was the full legal guardian,” defense lawyer Joshua Autry said.
Miller, a Mennonite pastor, is charged with aiding and abetting in international kidnapping.
Lisa Miller, no relation to the defendant, and Janet Jenkins of Fair Haven entered a civil union in Vermont in 2000. Lisa Miller gave birth to her daughter, Isabella, in 2002. The couple later broke up, and Lisa Miller returned to her native Virginia.
The two fought a five-year custody battle. After Lisa Miller refused to share custody, a judge transferred custody of the girl to Jenkins.
Prosecutors say on Sept. 22, 2009, Kenneth Miller drove mother and daughter from Virginia to Buffalo, N.Y., where the two crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Canada and flew to Central America and lived among Mennonites. The current whereabouts of the mother and her now-10-year-old daughter are unknown.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugenia Cowles said the government will prove that Kenneth Miller and others helped arrange the flight of Lisa Miller and Isabella.
“In the dark of the night, Lisa Miller took her daughter across that bridge,” Cowles said. “Lisa Miller didn’t act alone. We are here because others, including the defendant, Kenneth Miller, aided in her cause.”
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