Lisa A. Miller and her daughter disappeared seven years ago and the two men who helped her flee have been arrested, convicted and punished for taking part in an international kidnapping that grabbed headlines across the nation.
The only defendant in the case who hasn't been caught is Miller, who is believed to be living in Nicaragua with her now 14-year-old daughter, Isabella, after fleeing to keep the girl away from the same-sex partner Miller had separated from.
Timothy Miller – an Amish Mennonite missionary who is not related to Lisa Miller but who admitted helping her make her way to Nicaragua in 2009 – was sentenced Thursday to time served and a year of probation.
In sparing Miller more prison time, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara pointed to the time he's already spent in jail, as well as his early cooperation with federal investigators who continue to look for Lisa Miller.
"There has been so much collateral damage," Arcara said of the men who helped Lisa Miller. "I see some basically wonderful people making some bad decisions and getting entangled in this mess."
In asking for leniency, Timothy Miller's lawyers pointed to the time he's already spent in custody – 8 months, including several months in Nicaragua's prisons.
"He's done some real hard time," said Jeffrey A. Conrad, a Lancaster, Pa., defense lawyer. "Nicaragua does its justice differently."
Miller, who was arrested in Nicaragua late last year, is the second defendant to be convicted in a prosecution that captured the nation's interest because of the issues – same-sex relationships and parental rights – at the heart of the case.
The other defendant, Philip Zodhiates – a Virginia businessman who, like Miller, was accused of helping Isabella's mother flee – was found guilty after a trial last year and was sentenced earlier this week to 3 years in prison.
At the crux of the case is the allegation that Isabella's kidnapping was Lisa Miller’s attempt at keeping her daughter away from Janet Jenkins, her former partner, and what Miller now calls “the homosexual lifestyle.”
Miller, the girl's biological mother, is also a defendant in the kidnapping case but has yet to appear in a courtroom to face the charges against her. Prosecutors said she and Isabella, now 14, are believed to be living together at a location unknown to authorities.
Timothy Miller was accused of buying them a one-way ticket from Toronto to Nicaragua and then helping them settle there after they fled Virginia in September 2009.
Joined by a civil union in Vermont, Jenkins and Lisa Miller separated in late 2003, and a Vermont court gave custody to Miller and visitation rights to Jenkins.
Jenkins, who took the witness stand in Zodhiates' case, told the jury she intends to do “anything and everything” to bring her daughter back to the United States.