Ex-lesbian turned Christian who fled country to protect daughter free after more than year behind bars

LOCKPORT, N.Y. — An ex-lesbian who fled the United States over a decade ago to protect her daughter from having further unsupervised visitations with her former partner is now free after spending more than a year behind bars. She had surrendered herself to authorities in January 2021, months after her daughter turned 18.

“Praise the Lord with us. Our sister, Lisa, has been released,” reports Pablo Yoder, a Mennonite pastor who serves in Nicaragua. “After about thirty minutes of hearing comments from both sides, Judge [Richard] Acara gave Lisa’s sentence as ‘time served’ …  [T]he judge agreed with the others, yes, even the prosecution, that it’s time to ‘move on.'”

A reported 50 to 60 Christians were present for the May 23 hearing to support Lisa Miller, who had pled guilty to a charge of “international parental kidnapping” in February 2021. She had been held at the Niagara County Jail in Lockport, New York, about 40 minutes northeast of Buffalo, where she had taken a taxi to Niagara Falls in 2009 with her daughter to cross the border into Canada and then flee to Nicaragua.

As previously reported, the matter began in 2003 when Miller sought to end the civil union with her then-partner, Janet Jenkins. The dissolution later resulted in disputes over child visitation, which in part centered on Miller’s concerns about her daughter being exposed to the homosexual lifestyle.

Lisa 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 Janet Jenkins and entered into a relationship with her, although “I did not feel sexually attracted to women.”

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In 2000, Miller joined in a civil union with Jenkins in the state of Vermont, one of the few states that allowed same-sex 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 four 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 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.

Miller and Isabella pre-flight

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 two and a half 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, three of whom likewise were sentenced for their involvement. Read their stories here, here, and here.

The case largely remained dormant for more than a decade as none could locate Miller and her daughter. However, in January 2021, Miller surrendered herself to authorities at the U.S. embassy in Nicaragua, where she obtained papers to fly back to the states. She was taken into custody upon arrival in Florida.

“I praise Him for providing for, protecting as in a cloud pillar, and sheltering my daughter, Isabella, and I these last over 11 years as I have been raising her for Christ in an undisclosed location,” she said in a statement at that time. “She is now 18 and free from the court rulings that I disregarded that stated that she was not to be taught the sacredness of marriage according to God …”

Isabella also released a brief statement advising that she refused to testify against her mother or anyone else who helped her escape the court order.

“I, Isabella Ruth Miller, am grateful for the life that God has given me these past few years and rejoice in the blessings He has granted me,” she wrote. “I am not willing to testify against Mama or anyone who has helped bless my life these past years. I am committed to continue to serve God in the days to come.”

Isabella has reportedly returned to the United States and is nearing 20 years old.

While the criminal case is now closed, a civil suit filed by Jenkins remains active, and donor pages have been set up to support Isabella and her mother in the days ahead.

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