Details of Disappearance Isabella's parents, Janet Jenkins and Lisa Ann Miller, were lesbian partners. They met in 1997 and moved in with each other a few weeks later. In December 2000, the couple were joined in a civil union in Vermont. (Their home state of Virginia did not recognize civil unions at the time; gay marriage was legalized there in 2014.)
In 2001, they made the decision to become parents and Lisa conceived Isabella with sperm from an anonymous donor. Janet never legally adopted her.
Four months after the child's birth, the family moved to Fair Haven, Vermont. Lisa had fertility treatments to try to have another baby, but wasn't able to. The couple were members of a Unitarian Universalist congregation.
In 2003, Lisa and Janet ended their relationship amicably. Lisa filed to dissolve the civil union in November of that year, and moved back to Virginia with Isabella. The women had an informal agreement where Janet would pay child support and have regular visits with Isabella.
Janet and Lisa's cooperation ended after Lisa joined the Thomas Road Baptist Church, a conservative congregation founded by evangelist Jerry Falwell, and renounced her homosexuality. She now believes homosexuality is a sin.
When Judge William Cohen in Vermont dissolved the couple's civil union in 2004, he gave custody of Isabella to Lisa and liberal visitation to Janet. Lisa regularly refused to allow Janet access to Isabella, however, because she felt Janet was not the child's mother but rather simply a "friend."
She testified that Janet was a physically and emotionally abusive partner, and she also accused Janet of sexually abusing Isabella. She stated Janet's visits with Isabella had caused behavioral problems in the child, including bedwetting, nightmares and threats to commit suicide.
Janet denied these allegations under oath, and Virginia's Child Protective Services deemed the abuse accusations unfounded. Judge Cohen fined Lisa $25 for every day she refused to let Janet see Isabella, and he made the ruling retroactive. Lisa quickly accumulated thousands of dollars in fines.
Lisa fought the case up to the state supreme court of Vermont, which decided against her, ruling that Janet was Isabella's legal parent and the case was the same as any custody dispute between heterosexual parents.
Lisa then tried to change jurisdiction to Virginia. The lower courts sided with her, but the Virginia Court of Appeals ruled that Vermont had jurisdiction. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
On November 20, 2009, Judge Cohen found Lisa in contempt of court and awarded custody of Isabella to Janet, saying this was the only way the child would be able to spend time with both parents.
Lisa took Isabella and disappeared sometime in the fall of 2009. It's unclear exactly when, but her neighbors said they hadn't seen her since September. Investigators believe she initially took Isabella to Canada and then to Mexico.
She was supposed to turn the child over to Janet on January 1, 2010, but she never did. Judge Cohen gave her 30 days to comply with the ruling, then found her in contempt of court and issued a felony warrant for her arrest on charges of kidnapping.
In April 2011, Timothy David "Timo" Miller (no relation to Lisa) was arrested in Alexandria, Virginia and charged with aiding and abetting Lisa and Isabella's flight. He was a Mennonite missionary in Nicaragua and authorities believe he helped Lisa and Isabella leave the United States and move to a "safe house" in Nicaragua's capital city of Managua.
In October, authorities dropped the charges against Timothy in exchange for his cooperation in the investigation. In 2014, however, Timothy was indicted again in New York State for helping Lisa and Isabella go through New York to Canada.
Although he had provided testimony on videotape, he did not return to the United States to testify, so the prosecution believed he had reneged on his agreement to cooperate with the investigation.
Kenneth L. Miller (no relation to Lisa or Timothy) was indicted for aiding international parental kidnapping in December 2011. A pastor with the Beachy Amish-Mennonite Church in Stuart's Draft, Virginia, he allegedly aided Lisa and Isabella's flight by having fellow Amish-Mennonites purchase plane tickets for them to fly from Canada to Nicaragua, via Mexico and El Salvador. The two females were wearing the long dresses Mennonite women wear; Kenneth had purchased them.
In Nicaragua, they initially stayed with Amish-Mennonite missionaries on a rural farm. Lisa homeschooled Isabella, who used the name "Lydia" and learned to speak Spanish.
Kenneth was convicted of aiding in international parental kidnapping and sentenced to 27 months in prison in March 2013, but didn't actually begin serving his sentence until March 2016, his appeal was rejected. Citing religious reasons, he has refused to testify against other individuals whom authorities believed have helped hide Isabella and Lisa; he stated he was "privileged to stand" with Lisa.
In October 2014, Philip Zodhiates, a businessman from Waynesboro, Virginia, was indicted for conspiracy and international parental kidnapping in connection with Isabella's abduction. Authorities believed he helped Lisa and Isabella by driving them to Buffalo, New York and crossing the Rainbow Bridge with them into Ontario.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, identified Zodhiates as a Christian Right activist who ran a now-defunct magazine called Spotlight, which featured anti-Semitic articles and advertisements for Neo-Nazi groups and the Ku Klux Klan.
At his trial in September 2016, Zodhiates admitted he had driven Lisa and Isabella into Canada, but said he was simply doing it to be "kind" and wasn't attempting to obstruct Janet's parental rights. He was convicted of international parental kidnapping and conspiracy.
In August 2012, Janet filed a filed a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) suit against Lisa, Kenneth, Timothy, the Liberty University School of Law, the Thomas Road Baptist Church and others, alleging they'd all assisted in Isabella's abduction and conspired to keep the child hidden. The suit is pending.
Photographs of Lisa are posted with this case summary. Her date of birth is September 6, 1968, making her 41 years old at the time of Isabella's abduction. She's described as Caucasian, 5'6 and 160 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. She may use the first name Sarah.
The Miller-Jenkins custody battle has made national headlines because of the issues it involves. Isabella and Lisa may still be in Nicaragua, or they may be in El Salvador or Costa Rica. There haven't been any sightings of them in several years. Janet has gotten married to another woman, and she still hopes to be reunited with Isabella. Her case remains unsolved.
- Bedford County Sheriff's Office
Updated 9 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated February 25, 2018; age-progression updated.