the republic logo

Virginia man pleads not guilty to helping woman flee with girl in lesbian custody case

bug
Share/Save/Bookmark

BUFFALO, New York — A Virginia businessman pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he helped a woman flee the country with her daughter to avoid sharing custody with her former partner during a custody dispute.

Philip Zodhiates declined to comment after appearing briefly in federal court on charges of conspiracy and international parental kidnapping.

The owner of Waynesboro, Virginia-based Response Unlimited, a Christian marketing business, Zodhiates is accused of traveling with Lisa Miller and her daughter Isabella from Virginia to New York on Sept. 21, 2009, and helping them enter Canada across the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.

Zodhiates, Miller and a Mennonite missionary were indicted last month but only Zodhiates is believed to be in the country. Miller and her daughter are believed to be in Nicaragua.

Zodhiates, the indictment said, spoke by phone with someone in Canada who agreed to help Miller, as well as a Mennonite pastor from Virginia, Kenneth Miller, who was convicted in 2012 of helping Lisa Miller flee.

Zodhiates could face up to five years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and three years if found guilty of international parental kidnapping. His attorney, James Grable, also declined comment Wednesday.

Isabella's other parent, Janet Jenkins, has been seeking her return for five years. Jenkins and Miller entered a civil union in Vermont in 2000, had Isabella in 2002 and split in 2003.

After their separation, a Vermont family court gave custody of Isabella to Miller with regular visitation for Jenkins, but Miller later sought full custody after moving to Virginia, becoming a conservative Christian and renouncing homosexuality.

Following a lengthy legal fight, Miller disappeared with Isabella shortly before a Vermont court transferred custody to Jenkins.

Indicted in September with Zodhiates and Lisa Miller was an American Mennonite missionary living in Nicaragua, Timothy Miller, who is accused of helping Lisa Miller and her now 12-year-old daughter reach Nicaragua. None of the Millers are related.

Lisa Miller also was charged in a 2010 federal criminal complaint in Vermont with international parental kidnapping. That case is pending.

Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!

Story copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Feedback, Corrections and Other Requests: AP welcomes feedback and comments from readers. Send an email to info@ap.org and it will be forwarded to the appropriate editor or reporter.


All content copyright ©2014 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.
All rights reserved. Privacy policy.