Christian Network Implicated in Parental Kidnapping Involving Lesbian Partner

Court documents suggest network helped woman take daughter from lesbian partner.

April 25, 2011, 1:32 PM

April 26, 2011 — -- An Amish Mennonite pastor charged with helping a woman kidnap her daughter from her lesbian partner may have had help from a network of groups with roots in the Christian and missionary world, according to court documents.

The pastor, Timothy Miller, was arrested last week in Alexandria, Va. A criminal complaint filed by the FBI in a federal court in Vermont alleges that the Amish Mennonite pastor aided in the "international parental kidnapping" of Isabella Miller Jenkins, the daughter of the former lesbian couple Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins. Isabella is now 9.

Timothy Miller, who is no relation to Lisa Miller, appeared in court Monday and posted a $25,000 bond and is now in the custody of a friend.

Court documents claim that Timothy Miller, 34, left a computer trail that shows family members as well as friends and associates were discussing Lisa Miller's flight to Nicaragua on emails both before and after she disappeared nearly two years ago.

The trail shows that Rev. Miller's mother-in-law's credit card was used to purchase plane tickets for the missing mother and daughter who flew from Toronto to Mexico to El Salvador and then to Managua, Nicaragua. Timothy Miller and his wife, Joanna, have served as missionaries in Nicaragua, according to court documents.

Timothy Miller's parents wrote so freely about Lisa Miller's intention to flee with the child that Timothy Miller told his parents to stop writing about and discussing her, according to emails gathered by the FBI.

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were once in a civil union and Lisa Miller gave birth to Isabella in 2002. The couple lived mostly in Virginia, but they obtained a civil union in Vermont. Lisa Miller filed to dissolve their civil union in 2004. Since then, Lisa Miller has renounced her homosexuality and become a Christian. The two women were embroiled in a custody dispute when Lisa Miller and Isabella disappeared in 2009.

Lisa Miller and Isabella were given new names, according to court documents, with Lisa becoming "Sarah" and Isabella becoming "Lydia," court papers state.

Timothy Miller appeared to work in conjunction with several groups. The plane tickets were purchased through Golden Rule Travel, a group focusing on "international adoption, humanitarian and missionary travel," according to court documents. When reached by phone, the manager of the Kansas office said that confidentiality rules prohibit them from disclosing whether they sold the tickets or not.

Timothy Miller was a pastor for the Christian Aid Ministries (CAM) in Nicaragua, and in an email he wrote in March 2010 he fretted, "Another big thing right now is CAM higher ups say she may not even go to CAM any more for the protection of the organization."

Christian Aid Ministries would not comment on the investigation.

Bank records cited in the court documents state that Lisa Miller "received multiple payroll checks from the Lynchburg Christian Academy Payroll Account." Miller received the checks while she was teaching at the school between the fall of 2008 and the spring of 2009, said Mathew Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Lynchburg Christian Academy, renamed Liberty Christian Academy, is linked to Liberty University and was founded by Jerry Falwell.

During the legal fight, Lisa Miller was represented by Rena Lindevaldsen, an associate law professor at the Liberty Center for Law and Policy, which is headquartered at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

In addition, Philip Zodhiates, the owner of a company specializing in source lists for Christian telemarketers and retailers, has a home in Nicaragua, according to court documents. Investigators allege that Lisa Miller and Isabella are staying at the home.

Sarah Star, the lawyer for Janet Jenkins, told investigators that she received a phone call in June of last year saying that the mother and child were at Zodhiates' home.

Timothy Miller Charged in Aiding Kidnapping of Girl Involved in Custody Dispute

Star said that she and her client are unsure if Isabella and Lisa Miller are still in Nicaragua. "It looks like they were there are at one point... We're anxiously awaiting more information," Star said.

Zodhiates did not return phone calls to ABC News. One of his employees at his company, Response Unlimited, said that Zodhiates does not know Timothy Miller.

Zodhiates' daughter, Victoria Hyden, works at Liberty University and investigators allege that her father asked her to disseminate a request for supplies to be sent to Lisa Miller and her daughter.

Mathew Staver, the founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, said that he has never heard of Timothy Miller and that his organization has had no contact with Lisa Miller since the fall of 2009.

"I've never heard of him before...never heard of his ministry before and Lisa Miller never mentioned him," Staver said.

Staver said that Zodhiates has no affiliation with Liberty University.

Some of the chattiest people were Rev. Miller's family. On Sept. 22, 2009, an email from his parents Alvin and Edna Miller said, "...So what is this about Lisa Miller? .... Where will she be staying? This sounds a little like Joy Coates how they ruled to give the Grandparents custody." Joy Coates vanished with her six children in 1997 after her husband died and custody was awarded to the children's grandparents.

Later on the same day, Miller's parents wrote, "Is she bringing her daughter with her or is she escaping by herself?"

After a few more such emails, Timothy Miller wrote, "Sorry folks, the Lisa subject should currently not be a top of discussion or emailing. It might soon, or it just might be more of a secret...Pray. Definitely, pray," according to court documents.

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