Posted on Dec 02, 2013

Savanna Catherine Todd was only ten months old when she was caught in the middle of a bitter custody battle in South Carolina. Now, she has been found safe in Australia on the Sunshine Coast.

In 1994, her mother, Dorothy Lee Barnett, and her millionaire father, South Carolina stockbroker Benjamin Harris Todd III, began their bitter divorce. The two married in 1991, and by 1993 the marriage crumbled. Barnett filed for divorce before Savanna was born. The judge at the time awarded Todd full custody of Savanna with visitation allowed by Barnett every second weekend. After her first visit, she refused to return her daughter, and only a few weeks later Barnett and Savanna disappeared.

Todd became a notable figure in the public eye, appearing on television shows such as Montel Williams and Sally Jesse Raphael.

Todd also launched a civil case against Barnett, where the judge awarded $50 million to Todd in damages. Todd and his lawyer took subpoenas and depositions from the people that they believed knew where Savanna was and where Barnett fled. The money was not the end goal, as Todd claimed to know that there was no way that the $50 million would be collected.

In the meantime Barnett had disappeared with Savanna to Europe, then married in South Africa, and then moved to New Zealand before settling in Australia in 2007.

Now, 20 years later, Savanna was found when Australian and U.S. police surrounded a quiet corner home at Mountain Creek, a suburb in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The police arrested a woman who went by the name Alexandra Geldenhuys.

Her daughter was identified as the child who was lost during that South Carolina custody battle 20 years ago. She is now a nursing student.

The U.S. plans to extradite Barnett. If she is convicted she faces more than 20 years in jail. Savanna is standing by her mother.

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Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.