ASHLAND, Ky. — A Virginia man who was found guilty in 2016 of aiding in international parental kidnapping and conspiracy for driving a woman to New York, where she then fled the country with her daughter—as she wanted to avoid an impending court order that would mandate that she hand over her child to her former lesbian partner—has reported to prison to begin serving his three-year sentence.
An update on a fundraising page for Philip Zodhiates outlines that the Virginia business man reported to prison in Ashland, Kentucky on Dec. 5.
“The Bible talks about in the latter days when [men] call good evil and evil good, and that’s exactly what’s happening here,” Zodhiates said during an interview with Sam Bushman of Liberty Roundtable just days prior.
“This is a poster case of over-criminalization. They’re using it to basically push a political agenda, and it’s a sad commentary on our justice system,” he remarked.
As previously reported, Zodhiates was placed on trial after being indicted on accusations that he drove Lisa Miller and her young daughter to Buffalo, New York, where the mother and child then took a taxi the rest of the way and crossed Niagara Falls’ Rainbow Bridge into Canada. Miller and her daughter boarded a plane to Nicaragua after reaching Canada. (See the indictment here.)
Zodhiates says that he didn’t know what Miller’s plans were—that she was going to flee the country with her child. He states that he just agreed to give her a ride to New York.
“The story that got told to the jury was that I’m homophobic and that I hate homosexuals, and that’s why I did what I did,” he stated. “I love anybody in the name of Christ. I don’t hate homosexuals; that’s a lie. They refused allow any evidence in court that would allude to the fact that I did this just to help somebody. They wanted to portray it as an act of hatred, and that was absolutely not the case.”
Zodhiates outlined that he used to have a lesbian employee for a number of years, whom he viewed as a friend, and doesn’t believe that he had a fair trial, as he was falsely portrayed as the “ringleader” of a kidnapping operation. He says that he was offered a plea bargain, but refused to plead guilty as he believes he didn’t break any laws.
Zodhiates is the son of the late Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, a Greek-born Bible scholar who founded the missions and relief ministry Advancing the Ministries of the Gospel International (AMG). His father also published the Hebrew-Greek KeyWord Study Bible and was a radio and television host, teaching on the New Testament from its original Greek meaning.
Zodhiates and his wife have six children, all adopted. Attorney Robert Hemley, who represented the Virginia businessman in court, described him as a “unique and special individual” who seeks to help others.
“Lisa’s secrecy and deception should not rub off on Philip,” Hemley stated. “There is no such thing as guilt by association.”
During the trial, the prosecution presented numerous witnesses, including Miller’s own father, Terry Miller, who painted a strained relationship with his daughter, calling her “hard-headed,” “introverted” and “very much secretive.” He testified that she asked him to call Zodhiates to provide the location of the Walmart where she was waiting to be picked up, but said he did not know why and did not ask.
Zodhiates made similar statements about his motivations before he was sentenced, outlining that he believes “we’re put on earth to make a difference,” and that was all he sought to do—to help a woman who said she was in need. He said it was not his objective to keep the ex-lesbian’s former partner away from the child.
As previously reported, Miller had previously been married to Kirk McConchie, her college sweetheart, but the marriage was very brief. The Washington Post reported in 2007 that Miller struggled with being intimate with her husband due to a physically and emotionally abusive childhood, which adversely affected their marriage.
“I tried [to secretly date men],” Lisa told the outlet at the that time, advising that her mother, who she described as “mentally ill,” forbid her from having relationships with men. “She would always find out. ‘All men are evil.’ That’s what I grew up with. ‘They only want one thing.’”
She said that she turned to alcohol in an attempt to deal with her problems, and soon ended up in AA, where she met lesbian Janet Jenkins and entered into a relationship with her, although “I did not feel sexually attracted to women.”
In 2000, Miller joined in a civil union with 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 daughter, named Isabella, in 2002.
But Miller said that 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 wrote in affidavits 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 Christians and their contacts, although to this day, it is not known exactly where Miller and her daughter are located.
Three individuals, including Zodhiates, were indicted in the matter. It was mentioned on at least one occasion that Jenkins had never sought to adopt the child—and declined to do so twice—and therefore, she cannot be considered the legal parent.
Jenkins testified against Zodhiates in court in 2016, stating that she is determined to do “anything and everything” to get Isabella back. The girl is now 15. Jenkins has since “married” another woman, and they raise a three-year-old together. She has filed a civil suit against Miller, Zodhiates and his daughter, Miller’s attorney at Liberty Counsel, and others over the situation.
Miller is quoted as stating just two months before fleeing the country, “This battle is not only about Isabella and me; it is about parents’ rights everywhere in the nation. … Isabella is a political hostage and is being used by the gay agenda to push their agenda of gay marriage. They say, and have said in the past, in regard to gay marriage that it will not hurt anyone. Well, they are wrong; a little seven-year-old girl is being hurt, and they want to rip her away from her biological mom (me) and give her to a legal stranger.”
“We are still a Christian nation, and I believe that it is a Christian’s duty to stand for what is right in God’s eyes. I still put my trust in God and am blessed that He has been and still is with me every step of the way…”