Former liaison on missing girl case : 'It was a huge shock'

By Stacy

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Cathy Joyner is a counselor who often works with children and families. She compared the case of Savanna Todd with that of an adopted child who only found out later in life that he or she was adopted.

"I'd expect she'd have a lot of conflict around resolving this and figuring out how to feel. I would think she'd support her mom," said Joyner, a licensed professional counselor at the Charleston Dorchester Mental Health Center.

"As difficult as it may be, Savanna's parents need to work together right now for the good of their daughter. Savanna is likely acting on emotions right now, she added.

The mother's court-appointed mediator hoped for a happy ending as well.

"I was really happy to hear Savanna has been found okay," said Melinda Lucka, who served as a liaison between Dorothy Lee Barnett and the courts in 1994.

A judge appointed Lucka after Barnett didn't return her baby to her father after a scheduled visit. The episode came only a few days after the father, Benjamin Harris Todd, was awarded full custody in February 1994.

"The judge at that point wanted something more structured. Someone that could be notified, could check in with her, that sort of thing," she said.

Lucka said the visits went smoothly for a couple months.

"I would talk to her. She'd check in. I went over a couple times. Things seemed to be fine until that day," she said.{}

That day was April 24, 1994. She spoke with Barnett that morning, she said.

"She sounded like normal. It was like not an out-of-the-ordinary day. It was a huge shock, as it was to everybody, that she didn't bring her back," she said.

Authorities said they've found Savanna and her mother in Australia.

The Australian reports Savanna Todd is refusing to see her father and is standing by her mother.

Only time will tell if two parents who couldn't get along when their child was an infant will be able to do what therapists say is best for their now 20-year-old daughter.


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