Tenn. pastor charged in Vt.-Va. custody case

FBI says he helped woman leave US with daughter

By John Curran
Associated Press / April 23, 2011

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MONTPELIER — A Tennessee pastor who allegedly helped a woman abscond to Central America with her 9-year-old daughter has been charged with aiding a kidnapping, the latest twist in a long-running custody dispute between lesbians who are former partners.

Timothy David Miller, 34, of Crossville, Tenn., is accused of helping arrange passage for Lisa Miller of Virginia and daughter Isabella Miller Jenkins, who have been on the run since 2009 and are believed to be living in Nicaragua.

It does not appear that Timothy Miller is related to the mother. He works with an Ohio-based Christian ministry, and people with links to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University may have provided a beach house where the two could live, according to an FBI affidavit.

“I know very little at this point, but I really hope that this means that Isabella is safe and well,’’ said Miller’s former partner, Janet Jenkins, of Fair Haven, Vt. “I am looking forward to having my daughter home safe with me very soon,’’ she said in a statement released by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, which has provided legal help.

Timothy Miller, described by the FBI as a pastor in an Amish-Mennonite church, is charged with aiding in international parental kidnapping, which carries a prison term of up to three years.

He is accused of providing Miller and the girl with travel assistance and a place to live outside the United States.

Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000. Isabella was born to Miller in 2002, and the couple broke up the following year.

Miller then moved to Virginia, renounced homosexuality, and became an evangelical Christian. She was granted custody of Isabella, but Jenkins received visitation rights.

Courts in Vermont and Virginia have since ruled in favor of Jenkins on the custody issue, most recently in November 2009, when Rutland Family Court Judge William Cohen, frustrated by Miller’s refusal to obey court orders, ordered her to surrender custody to Jenkins.

Miller, who at one time lived in Forest, Va., failed to appear with the girl for a court-ordered Jan. 1, 2010, custody swap. A federal arrest warrant has since been issued for her.