Savanna Harris Todd was a mere 11 months old, when her bi-polar, biological mother adopted her from her father and legal guardian. Nineteen years later, Savanna Todd was discovered living in Australia under the name Samantha Geldenhuys. Now, her mother, Dorothy Lee Barnett, faces extradition back to the United States to face multiple federal charges. Meanwhile, Savanna’s father, Benjamin Harris Todd (who goes by the name Harris), is hopeful for a reunion with his long-lost daughter.
It’s hard to imagine living on the run for 20 years, but that is exactly what authorities say Barnett and Todd did. Barnett also used various aliases and reports indicate she and her daughter spent time in New Zealand and South Africa, before being discovered in Queensland, Australia. Barnett allegedly abducted Savanna on April 23, 1994, from her South Carolina home after saying she was taking the child to a birthday party. According to the article by the Dart Center, Barnett enlisted the help of the “Children of the Underground” network run by Faye Yager. Typically, the network helps parents run with children when there is extensive, consistent evidence of abuse. According to the article, Yager helped Barnett, even though no such evidence existed.
According to reports, Todd won sole custody of Savanna due to Barnett’s extreme, erratic behavior and manic-depressive (now bi-polar disorder) diagnosis. Todd states that Barnett would threaten to kill herself, physically assault him, and behave in a manner that caused him to fear for both himself and his daughter (such as not sleeping for a week at a time or more).
A report from the New Zealand Herald, states that Barnett ended up living in South America where she met and married a man named Juan Geldenhuys. Geldenhuys has since passed away, but Barnett had a child with him. The boy is now 17-years-old. A friend of Geldenhuys reportedly grew suspicious of Barnett and heard her mistakenly refer to her daughter as “Samantha.” He investigated the situation himself and found the case on the Internet. It is reported that the friend contacted Benjamin Harris Todd and informed him about Barnett’s and Savanna’s whereabouts. Authorities were contacted and Dorothy Lee Barnett was arrested on Nov. 4, 2013.
You may read more about the back story on this case here.
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