Dorothy Lee Barnett, then Alex Geldenhuys with daughter Samantha.
Dorothy Lee Barnett, then Alex Geldenhuys with daughter Samantha.

Coast mum convicted of kidnap to walk from US prison

DOROTHY Lee Barnett, the Sunshine Coast mum convicted by an American court of kidnapping her daughter in February, is due to be released from jail next Friday.

Close family friend, Bruce Michell from Mooloolaba, said the American prison system had found Ms Barnett, known to the Coast as Alex Geldenhuys, had served enough of her sentence to warrant parole.

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He said Ms Barnett was looking forward to living a life no longer in hiding.

Ms Barnett was sentenced to 21 months jail on February 12 after she was found guilty of running away with her 10-month-old daughter, Savanna Todd, in 1994.

Her departure sparked an international manhunt that lasted two decades until one of Ms Barnett's closest friends and neighbours, Stephen Scofield, tipped off her ex-husband, Benjamin Harris Todd, that she was living on the Sunshine Coast.

Samantha stood by her mother throughout her trial in her former hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, pleading for a light sentence.

Mr Michell said she had met with her father at the time of the trial but was now back in Australia completing her nursing degree.

Ms Barnett has also been able to reconnect with family, including her mother and brother, and friends she last saw two decades ago before she fled with her little baby.

"She has a big community around her," Mr Michell said.

He said Ms Barnett "regards the Sunshine Coast as home" and hoped to return.


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