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Woman is Accused of Abducting Daughter from South Carolina 20 Years Ago


A case in which a woman has been arrested in Australia on charges of abducting her infant daughter from South Carolina 20 years ago has made headlines recently.

Dorothy Lee Barnett wants to be released on bond, Associated Press reported. But a federal prosecutor is opposing the idea saying that Barnett may flee.

Barnett, 54, is a former resident of the Isle of Palms. She faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of parental kidnapping as well as two counts of falsifying U.S. passport applications.

Authorities said she did not have custody of her daughter, Savanna Catherine Todd, when she took her out of South Carolina in 1994 when the child was almost a year old. She was found in Australia in 2013 living under several aliases. She fought extradition but was returned to the United States in September.

As Columbia family law attorneys we deal with many child custody cases after the divorce. Typically this is one of the most contentious areas of family law, although this case was extreme.

Barnett and her husband, Harris Todd, divorced in 1994. Todd was granted custody of their daughter at the time. The mother was granted two supervised weekend visits a month for their daughter.

Prosecutors say Barnett then used a false name to get a driver's license in Texas which she then used to obtain license to obtain a passport. They claim a week after she received the license she failed to return her daughter from a supervised visit in South Carolina. Prosecutors say it was the fifth visit and the child was never returned from a birthday party. She then married and had a son by a man, who is now dead in South Africa and filed an application for an amended passport under her new name, the motion stated.

The motion said when Barnett was arrested, she had a New Zealand passport for Barnett as well as South African passports for her daughter and son. Barnett is accused of having a fake birth certificate, U.S. passports and documents indicating Barnett and her children were citizens of New Zealand, according to the motion.

The judge noted there is no statute of limitations on people fleeing justice and while the amended passport application was submitted from outside the country, it was filed with a passport office in the United States.

Our Columbia family lawyers have helped many people achieve a favorable resolution in custody issues in South Carolina. The guiding factor in these cases is the best interests of the child. Call Masella Law at 803.938.4952.

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