A South Carolina girl kidnapped by her mother when she was just 10 months old has been found alive in Australia, 19 years after she went missing.
Savanna Harris Todd, now 20 and living under the name Samantha Geldenhuys, appeared at her mother's side in court Wednesday, holding a sign that said, "We love you, Mom," according to the Australian.
Todd was living a “safe, healthy and otherwise living a normal life” in Queensland, U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said in a statement announcing the development Thursday.
Todd's mother, Dorothy Lee Barnett, was charged with international parental kidnapping and two counts of false statements in a passport application after being captured on November 4 following a joint investigation by Australian federal police and the FBI.
A South Carolina court handed custody of Todd over to her father after determining that Barnett had bipolar disorder. But rather than give her child up, Barnett fled South Carolina in 1994 and spent the next two decades living under several aliases in South Africa, New Zealand, and finally, Australia.
Jim Arnold, who was chief of police in Isle of Palms, S.C., at the time of the abduction, told ABC 4 Charleston that he remembered searching the Barnett's home and finding it in disarray. He said there were crawlspaces in closets and maps with cities and escape routes highlighted.
"I recall just seeing the maps," Arnold told the station. "There were circles of places outside South Carolina and out of the country."
According to the Daily Mail, Barnett is "thought to have fled the United States using a fake passport with the help of a secretive organization called Children of the Underground, who help women stuck in abusive relationships."
Barnett will be extradited to the U.S. to face charges.
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