BURLINGTON -- The Vermont woman once joined in a civil union with a Virginia woman who fled the country almost three years ago with the girl they both considered their daughter testified Friday she had been planning a weekend visit with the girl three days after she left the country and flew to Nicaragua.
In brief, but emotional testimony in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Janet Jenkins gave an overview of her relationship with Lisa Miller and a history of some of her visits with the girl Isabella, now 10, between the time the two split up in 2003 and Lisa Miller and Isabella left the country on Sept. 22, 2009.
Jenkins last saw Isabella in January 2009, and was looking forward to the late September visit.
"I was going to go to Lynchburg, (Va.) and pick my daughter up for the weekend," said Jenkins, who lives in Fair Haven and runs a day-care business. But when she arrived to pick up Isabella, no one was home.
U.S. District Court Judge William K. Sessions insisted the attorneys prosecuting Kenneth Miller, 46, of Stuarts Draft, Va., and his defense attorney keep Jenkins’ testimony focused on the charges against Kenneth Miller -- that he helped Lisa Miller and Isabella avoid court-ordered visitation and flee the country ahead of what was expected to be a judge’s order transferring custody of the girl to Jenkins.
"This is not a custody battle," Sessions told the attorneys with the jury out of the room. "This
Jenkins testified on the third full-day of the trial of Kenneth Miller, who is not related to Lisa Miller. Kenneth Miller, a Mennonite pastor, is charged with aiding in international parental kidnapping. If convicted he faces up to three years in prison.
Prosecutors say Kenneth Miller orchestrated the flight of Lisa Miller and Isabella from Virginia to the Canadian border, and then arranged for Mennonites in Canada and Nicaragua to care for the two during their trip and once they arrived in Central America.
Jenkins and Lisa Miller were joined in a Vermont civil union in December 2000. Isabella was born in April 2002, and for a time they lived as a family with two mothers.
After they spit up in 2003, Lisa Miller returned to Virginia, became a born again Christian and renounced homosexuality.
After Jenkins and Lisa Miller dissolved their civil union, the Vermont family court judge gave custody to Lisa Miller with regular visitation rights for Jenkins. There were a number of visits over the years as the two fought in court over those visits. After years of court battles, courts in Vermont and Virginia ruled the case should be bound by the orders of Vermont’s family court.
While Sessions hasn’t allowed Kenneth Miller’s trial to focus on any religious motivations he might have had in helping the mother and daughter, his supporters have in the past said they believed Lisa Miller was right to try to protect her daughter from what they felt was the immoral lesbian lifestyle.
The family court found that Lisa Miller failed to live up to the visitation orders. About a month before Lisa Miller and Isabella fled the country, the Vermont judge had let it be known that he would transfer custody if Lisa Miller continued to defy the visitation orders.
During Kenneth Miller’s trial, prosecutors have outlined what they claimed were his efforts to work with supporters in the United States and enlist support in Canada and Nicaragua.
Kenneth Miller’s defense attorney, Joshua Autry, maintains he believed Lisa Miller had full custody of Isabella during their flight and he wasn’t breaking the law by helping them.
The trial is expected to wrap up in the middle of next week.