After nearly 20 years, Dorothy Barnett an Underground Mom and parental kidnapper of Savanna Todd was finally arrested in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in Australia. In 1993, Dorothy Barnett fled Isle of Palms, South Carolina using a falsified United States Passport with her then infant child. She was allegedly assisted by Faye Yager’s Children of the Underground Organization. Faye Yager appeared on several U.S. Television Talk Shows discussing the Dorothy Barnett Parental Kidnapping Case.
Like many Children of the Underground Cases that we’ve followed for the past two decades, Dorothy Lee Barnett fled Underground after losing primary custody to the child’s father. We understand Dorothy Barnett first fled to Frankfurt, Germany. Several years later traveled to South Africa and married a man named Juan Geldenhyus. I recollect at around that time, other searching fathers received rumors that there were Children of the Underground Mothers in Germany, France, Costa Rica and South Africa. Apparently, Ms. Barnett fled to New Zeland with her new husband and then later to Australia. Since Elizabeth Morgan fled to New Zealand in the ’80s, there have been only one previous child of the Children of the Underground found in New Zealand or Australia.
The arrest and probable future extradition of Dorothy Lee Barnett for Forgery of False Use of a U.S. Passport carries a maximum sentence in the United States of 10 years. The Parental Kidnapping Crime carries a sentence of up to 3 years. The arrest of Dorothy Barnett is also a celebration for the International Family Abduction Community of Searching and Recovering Parents. Over the past four decades we have seen:
- Our Family Law Courts have moved from Maternal Custody to Joint Custody to Co-Parenting
- Our Nation’s Child Protective Services Systems have matured
- And finally our law enforcement organizations and courts have taken great measures to enforce Domestic and International Family Abduction Crimes
What this means that parental underground mothers like Dorothy Barnett cannot claim the “necessity defense” or fleeing from an accusation of “family violence” as a defense to a parental kidnapping crime. As we have seen in the criminal trials of these underground cases, the underground moms never exhausted their legal remedies before they left. In the Barnett case, she left most likely after a Family Court Evaluation and Family Law Judge ordered primary custody to the father and supervised visitation to the mother. And as we have seen in these cases, the motive is always for anger and revenge and not for protection of the child.
Dorothy Barnett is also not the first Underground Mother to get divorced while Underground. April Meyer, fled underground with husband number 2 with husband number 1’s child, then got divorced and married husband number 3 while in hiding. We imagine that Dorothy Barnett is narcissistic and manipulative like most underground mothers.
Finally, on behalf of the Family Abduction Community, we applaud the efforts of the recovering parent. We have followed his case over the years and recollect that he spent thousands of hours searching for his daughter Savanna including going on Television Talk Shows. Most searching parents rarely get that kind of opportunity but in this case, this father did. As we have found in these cases, parents like Dorothy Barnett were not thinking of their child when they went underground, they were thinking of themselves.
There are now three things that need to occur in this case:
- The most important is for Savanna Geldenhyus to prove that she is in the elite of the recovered adult children. To do so, she would need to do only one thing, she would need to call her father Harris up and start a reunification process. A simple phone call is the start. There is no way that Dorothy Barnett can ever prove in a jury trial that she had any reasonable excuse for committing this crime. If Dorthy Barnett had any credibility to her allegations, she could have just taken her custody time and stayed South Carolina. It’s so sad that Savanna has grown up without knowing her father who lives in the exclusive Isle of Palms Community on the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina. What we have seen in other underground cases is that there is so much opportunity a child misses while in hiding, and Savanna can still reap the benefits of having a relationship with her father if she acts quickly and maturely with this decision. We’ve seen far to many really horrible reunifications where the arrested parents continues to alienate the child against the other parent.
- Dorothy Barnett must be extradited back to the United States as quickly as possible. A good benchmark for the Australian Courts is the Elian Gonzalez case where the United States sent the child back to Cuba.
- Dorothy Barnett must be charged and sentenced to prison by a United States Court.
The Editor, The Children of the Underground Watch
Law Catches up with mum 20 years after she fled with baby Savanna by Adam Shand and Sarah Elks, The Australian (November 14, 2013)
“The Kid Is With A Parent, How Bad Can It BE?”: The Crisis of Family Abductions by Ernie Allen