Vt. lawyer: 8-year-old girl, Va. lesbian mom in custody fight may have fled to Central America

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — An 8-year-old girl at the heart of a long-running child custody fight between former lesbian partners may have fled to Central America with her birth mother, a lawyer for one of the women said.

The girl, Isabella Miller-Jenkins, and her birth mother, Lisa Miller, failed to appear for a court-ordered custody swap in January and are believed to have flown to El Salvador last September, said attorney Sarah Star, who represents ex-partner Janet Jenkins.

Star said a Virginia police officer told her that Miller and the girl flew to El Salvador's capital, San Salvador, from Juarez, Mexico, which is across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

"This is obviously horrifying," Star said Thursday. "Isabella's not in school. She's most likely in a country that is not as developed as the U.S., and (Jenkins is) worried about her. She's worried she's not in a safe environment. As far as we know, Lisa Miller doesn't even speak Spanish."

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has turned its attention to Central America, distributing photos and information about Isabella to news outlets throughout the region, apparently believing she and her birth mother moved there, Star said Thursday.

Isabella, a pigtailed 4-foot-tall blonde, is listed on the Center's website as a victim of a family abduction who may be in the company of Miller.

Center officials wouldn't comment on that development Thursday.

"This thing has taken some interesting turns, but I can't talk about where we think the child may be, because she hasn't been found," said Robert Lowery, executive director of the Center's missing-children division.

Isabella was born to Miller and Jenkins after the two obtained a civil union in Vermont in 2000. Miller and Jenkins broke up in 2003, and they have fought over custody since.

Isabella and Miller, of Forest, Va., were supposed to appear Jan. 1 for Jenkins, of Fair Haven, Vt., to take custody of the girl. When they didn't appear, a contempt citation and arrest warrant were issued for Miller in Vermont, and a Virginia court has issued a show cause order against her.

On June 23, the Vermont Supreme Court will hear arguments from Miller's attorneys, who say they haven't heard from her since September, on an appeal that contends a Family Court judge was wrong to transfer custody rights to Jenkins last November.