Seeking Savanna: Dorothy Lee Barnett being extradited to US
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The attorney for a Lowcountry father whose infant daughter was taken to Australia 20 years ago says he is not surprised the child's mother is being extradited back to the United States.
Dorothy Lee Barnett was ordered by an Australian magistrate to return to Charleston to face parental kidnapping charges after she allegedly fled the U.S. with her daughter nearly two decades ago.
Charleston attorney Graham Sturgis says his client, Harris Todd, is grateful that his daughter Savanna was found last year, even though she was half a world away. Todd is also glad to see Barnett will have to answer for her actions, Sturgis said.
Barnett lost a custody battle and ran away from Todd in 1994. She's accused of abducting her 10-month-old daughter during a visitation. Barnett covered her tracks, investigators said, pointing them in several directions that were designed to cover her exit from the country.
She changed her name and bounced from country to country until landing in South Africa and marrying another man. They would eventually move to Australia where they lived undetected under assumed names for years.
But last November, she was found. Her name had been changed to Alexandra, and Savanna was known as Samantha.
Since then, the Australian court system has slowly moved forward, working with U.S. attorneys on an extradition case against Barnett.
"That it sought extradition of Ms. Barnett from halfway around the world in another country. So I think that that's pretty strong indication that the United States takes a dim view of what she did," said Sturgis.
Todd's attorney says his client would like to have a relationship with his daughter while making sure the American justice system moves fairly.
"The prosecution is a criminal process that results as a violation of the laws of the United States and it's being prosecuted by the United States. Mr. Todd is a victim in this. And to that extent, he doesn't have a whole lot of say about how the process goes along," said Sturgis.
Todd told ABC News 4 in March that he is most interested in reconnecting with his daughter. If that doesn't happen, he can accept that, he said.
In the time since Barnett's arrest, Todd and his daughter have communicated a few times over email, which may be a good start.
Barnett's mother and a close friend both refused interviews on Thursday even though her return to the Lowcountry means a bittersweet reunion for the family.
Barnett was charged with parental kidnapping and falsifying passport documents. If convicted, she faces more than 10 years in prison.