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US drops charges against missionary accused in Vt. lesbian custody kidnapping case
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) ' Federal prosecutors have worked out a deal with an American missionary in Nicaragua that may help them find a woman who fled the country in a custody dispute with her former lesbian partner, court documents show.
Prosecutors have decided to drop criminal charges against Timothy David "Timo" Miller in exchange for his testimony in future proceedings in the case, according to documents filed Oct. 28.
Miller was charged with helping Lisa Miller, who is no relation to him, flee the United States with her 9-year-old daughter in defiance of a Vermont court order that granted custody to her former partner, Janet Jenkins.
Prior to his April arrest, Timothy Miller had been working as a missionary in Nicaragua. The FBI is continuing to investigate the case against Lisa Miller of Forest, Va., whose whereabouts are unknown.
Jenkins, of Fair Haven, and Lisa Miller were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000. Two years later, Miller gave birth to daughter Isabella, conceived through artificial insemination. The couple split up in 2003, with Miller renouncing homosexuality and becoming a Baptist, then a Mennonite.
Interviews by The Associated Press with people involved in the case in the United States and Nicaragua show they saw their roles in helping to keep Isabella from what they perceived as an immoral homosexual lifestyle ' similar to those who helped runaway slaves to safety during the Civil War.
"In light of Timothy Miller's role in the international parental kidnapping, and his agreement to cooperate with the investigation of the United States government, including an agreement to return to the United States and to provide truthful testimony as requested in any proceedings in this matter, further prosecution is not in the interests of the United States at this time," U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin said in the court filing last week.
Timothy Miller also is to get his passport back, according to another court filing that day. Coffin said Friday he could not comment beyond what's in the court documents.
Timothy Miller was arrested last spring when he returned to the United States from Nicaragua. He was free on bail, pending the charges. His attorney, Jeffrey Conrad of Lancaster, Pa., did not immediately return a call Friday and it was not clear if Miller has returned to Nicaragua.
Over the last 14 months, a series of search warrants, most of which were sealed, were issued in the investigation of Lisa Miller. The filings included a search warrant for Lisa Miller's computer records, including email and Facebook accounts.
After the couple split up, Lisa Miller originally was granted custody of Isabella, but her continued defiance of visitation schedules led courts in Vermont and Virginia to rule in favor of Jenkins, culminating in a judge's 2009 decision to award custody to Jenkins. Lisa Miller was ordered to turn Isabella over to Jenkins on Jan. 1, 2010.
Prosecutors say Lisa Miller and Isabella traveled to Nicaragua in September 2009 where Timothy Miller and a group of Mennonite missionaries helped shelter them. Court documents indicate Lisa Miller and Isabella were last known to be in Nicaragua in the spring of 2010.
Earlier this year, a Mennonite pastor in Nicaragua told AP that "the Nicaraguan brotherhood felt it right and good to help Lisa not only free herself from the so called civil marriage and lesbian lifestyle, but especially to protect her 9-year-old daughter from being abducted and handed over to an active lesbian and a whole-hearted activist."