BUFFALO, N.Y. — An American missionary to Nicaragua entered a guilty plea on Wednesday to a charge of conspiracy in international parental kidnapping for helping an ex-lesbian flee the U.S. with her child seven years ago.
“Timo Miller is a good man,” his defense attorney, Jeffrey Conrad of Pennsylvania told the Buffalo News. “He made a mistake and he wants to put this behind him.”
Several supporters sat in the courtroom as Timothy Miller, also known as Timo, entered his plea. Miller lives in Crossville, Tennessee, but conducts missions work in Managua, Nicaragua.
A criminal complaint had stated that he worked with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries, but Assistant Director Paul Weaver told Christian News Network that Timo Miller had no affiliation with their organization. A lawsuit filed against the group by the ex-lesbian’s former partner was also dismissed because of the misunderstanding.
Miller appeared in court in Buffalo, New York as that is the location where the stated crime occurred.
He now faces 12 to 18 months in prison for purchasing plane tickets for Lisa Miller (no relation) and her daughter to fly from Canada to Nicaragua, and then helping them find refuge in the country. The woman had fled the United States after being threatened by a federal judge that he would transfer custody of the child to the woman’s ex-partner if she did not allow the girl to have further visitation.
As previously reported, according to the criminal complaint filed in 2011, Timothy Miller allegedly used his mother-in-law’s credit card to pay for Lisa Miller’s plane tickets to fly out of Canada—funds that he reimbursed. He then picked up Miller and her daughter in Managua and helped them to find refuge in the country.
“Timothy Miller provided assistance for Lisa Miller and [Isabella’s] travel outside of the United States,” the FBI complaint read. “Timothy Miller provided a place of shelter for Lisa Miller and [Isabella] outside of the United States.”
In March 2010, email from Timothy Miller to his mother outlined a birthday party being planned in Nicaragua for Isabella, known undercover as Lydia.
“I feel dearly for these two people,” he wrote. “And I can see it would mean a lot to them in this rough first year of their stay in Nica. I would love for Lydia’s birthday to be very special and remembered long. She is going through a lot and her future looms greatly in front of her right now…”
The situation began in 2000, when Lisa Miller joined in a civil union with lesbian Janet Jenkins in the state of Vermont, one of the few states that allowed homosexual arrangements at the time. Following an artificial insemination procedure from a male sperm donor, Miller gave birth to a girl, named Isabella, in 2002.
But Miller said she had concern even then.
“There were numerous incidents of Janet going to [the Internet] and putting up naked women on the screen saver, and I would ask her to please change it,” Lisa later told the court, according to the Washington Post.
“I don’t have clean hands, either. Previously, before … the baby was born, [pornography] was used in our relationship,” she said. “When we moved to Vermont, Isabella was 4 months old, and I said this stuff has to go … There’s a baby in this house now. I don’t want that.”
In 2003, Miller and Jenkins split over continued tension in their relationship, part of which involved the miscarriage of Miller’s second pregnancy, and Miller moved to Virginia. She renounced her involvement in homosexuality and reportedly turned to Jesus Christ to be born again.
“It wasn’t a struggle,” she recalled of walking away from the homosexual lifestyle. “I felt peace.”
When the civil union between Miller and Jenkins was officially dissolved, the court gave custody to Miller, while also granting visitation rights to Jenkins.
While Miller did allow Isabella to spend time with Jenkins for a while, she reportedly became concerned at the information that her daughter was providing to her following the visitations.
Later, Miller testified to the court that the visits were causing great trauma to Isabella. She claimed that at six years old, the girl was forced to take baths together with Jenkins, and that the girl was openly touching herself inappropriately. She also stated that Isabella was withdrawn and talked about suicide at times.
“Isabella came home and said, ‘Mommy, will you please tell Janet that I don’t have to take a bath anymore at her house,’” Miller told reporters in 2008. “I asked her what happened. She said, ‘Janet took a bath with me.’ I asked her if she had a bathing suit on. ‘No, Mommy.’ She had no clothes on and it totally scared Isabella. She had never seen this woman except once in 2 ½ years and she takes a bath with her.”
“Last year, Isabella put a comb up to her neck and said she wanted to kill herself after one of the visits,” she outlined. “She took a comb and pressed it into her neck and said, ‘I want to kill myself.’ I don’t know where she got that. It was immediately after a visit. Other people have seen huge changes.”
Miller then filed for exclusive custody of Isabella, and the court agreed. She told the Washington Post, “I don’t see Janet as a parent, first and foremost. Secondly, I don’t want to expose Isabella to Janet’s lifestyle. It goes against all my beliefs. I am raising Isabella to pattern herself after Christ. That’s my job as a Christian mom. Homosexuality is a sin.”
However, Jenkins fought the ruling all the way up to the Virginia Supreme Court, which in 2008, ruled in favor of granting Miller’s former lesbian partner visitation rights. Miller refused.
The following year, family court judge Richard Cohen warned Miller that she must allow Isabella to visit Jenkins and threatened that if she did not do so, he would transfer full custody to Jenkins. In November 2009, Cohen followed through with his threats and ordered Miller to hand the child over to Jenkins.
However, Miller had fled the country with Isabella before he issued the transfer order, and for some time, none knew the whereabouts of the two. It was later discovered that they had fled to Nicaragua via the help of a number of Mennonite Christians and their contacts.
Mennonite pastor Ken Miller is currently serving 27 months behind bars for his alleged part in the escape after being convicted in 2012. Businessman Phillip Zodhiates, who is not Mennonite, was found guilty by a jury in October and is scheduled to be sentenced in January.