September 4 , 2014
A mother accused of abducting her infant daughter 20 years ago will be extradited to the United States.
The federal government has ordered Dorothy Lee Barnett, 53, be surrendered to US authorities to face international parental kidnapping charges, despite an appeal from her lawyers.
Ms Barnett was arrested on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast last year and charged with kidnapping her 10-month-old daughter, Savannah Todd, in 1994 and fleeing the US.
A digitally aged photo of Dorothy Lee Barnett released by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children during the search for the alleged kidnapper. Photo: Supplied
In November 2013 Australian and US police found Ms Barnett and her daughter, who now goes by the name of Samantha Geldenhuys, living in the suburb of Mountain Creek, west of Mooloolaba.
When arrested, Ms Barnett consented to extradition but then reneged.
Her lawyers asked the federal government to prevent the extradition, but federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan ordered this week that Ms Barnett be surrendered.
Savannah Harris Todd was discovered at the age of 20 living in Australia
“The minister arrived at his determination following careful consideration of the provisions of Australia’s extradition law and taking into account representations made by, and on behalf of, Ms Barnett,” a government spokeswoman said in a statement to Fairfax Media.
According to US authorities, Samantha’s American father, millionaire stockbroker Benjamin Harris Todd III, had been granted sole custody of the then-10-month-old.
It is alleged Ms Barnett left for a birthday party with her infant daughter in South Carolina and never returned.
Mr Todd has spent the last two decades searching for his daughter, making public appeals for information on her whereabouts and circulating age-progressed photos of Samantha and her mother on international missing persons websites.
Ms Barnett is alleged to have fled to Europe on a false passport, changing her name to Alexandra Canton.
In 1995, she married a man named Juan Geldenhuys in South Africa with whom she had a son.
The family moved to New Zealand, before settling in Australia in 2007.
Mr Geldenhuys returned to South Africa about five years ago and is believed to have died from bone cancer in October, just weeks before his former wife’s arrest.
Samantha attended the local high school on the Sunshine Coast and, after graduating, moved to Townsville to study nursing at James Cook University, where she found a boyfriend in an engineering student.
Ms Barnett faces more than a decade in a US prison if convicted of international parental kidnapping and passport-related offences.
She has remained in custody since her arrest last year, but has regular visits from her daughter and son.
US authorities have two months in which to escort Ms Barnett to the US, subject to any application for a review of Mr Keenan’s order.
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