Barnett released after four months in U.S. custody for kidnapping daughter
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The woman who took her infant daughter, changed their names, and fled the country 20 years ago was released from jail on Friday, family members confirmed to ABC News 4.
Dorothy Lee Barnett's release came about four months after she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 21 months in prison. She was given credit for time served between jails in Charleston County and Australia.
Barnett kidnapped her 10-month-old daughter Savanna in 1994, authorities said. At the time, her father Harris Todd had full custody of the baby.
"I don't care if I ever see her ever again. But, I have no animosity for her. She's my daughter's mother and that's what she is and that's what she'll always be," Todd said regarding his ex-wife.
Since learning about her real biological father, Savanna -- who now goes by the name Samantha -- has reportedly had sporadic communication with Todd, largely by email. He said in earlier interviews that he was interested in building a relationship with her, but wanted to let the situation evolve on its own.
The news that Samantha was alive and well halfway across the country was a relief, Harris said. He would have only changed one thing about the news.
"My biggest regret is that I didn't get it a day or two earlier so I could tell my mother," he said. "She died the next day."
U.S. authorities had charged Barnett with child abduction and passport fraud charges, including changing her and her daughter's name. Barnett was arrested in November 2013, despite being located two years prior.
Barnett was arrested in Australia on Nov. 4, 2013. At a bond hearing a week later, Barnett was denied bond and is expected to be extradited to the U.S. So far, no court date has been set, officials said.
According to court records obtained by The Australian, Savanna was not returned by her mother after a supervised visit in April 1994. During an investigation, officials learned that Barnett earlier in the month had a license issued in the name of Alexandria Canton, which was then used to get a passport.
Court records show Canton had planned to fly to Frankfurt, Germany on April 23, 1994.
Officials say Canton then married Juan Geldenhuys in the Republic of South Africa in February 1995 and applied for an amended passport to change her last name to Geldenhuys and claimed to live in South Africa.
In 2004, she applied for a new passport.
According to Canton's affidavit, she gained New Zealand citizenship in 2008 and arrived in Australia late in 2007. She and her husband purchased a home on the Sunshine Coast, but she bought his share four years ago when they divorced.
Since moving out of the U.S., Savanna's name was changed to Samantha, and she has another child, a 17-year-old boy. In August of this year, Canton took a job at Oxford University Press and has played host to several foreign exchange students.