Real Name: Dorothy Lee Barnett
Wanted For: Abduction
Missing Since: April 24, 1994
Details: Dorothy Lee Barnett and Benjamin Harris Todd met in Charleston, South Carolina in 1987. They began dating in fall 1990; within a year, she had moved in with him. According to him, her "public" side was bright and vivacious. However, he claims that she also had a dark and moody side. Quite early in the relationship, she began having temper tantrums. She would "explode" over something that was quite insignificant.
Despite their stormy relationship, Lee and Harris were married on December 28, 1991. Lee's friend, Sonya, was amazed because they had dated for a while and their relationship was very volatile. According to Harris, the first month of their marriage went well. However, after that, Lee's outbursts became more frequent and increased in intensity. According to Harris, she became upset one night, claiming that he did not take her out to eat anymore. However, he said that he had done so the previous Saturday. She refused to listen to him. When he tried to calm her down, she only became angrier. She even threw a glass at him and tried to hit him. At first, he believed that her outbursts were due to her drinking.
One night, Harris vividly remembered waking up to an odd banging sound. At first, he thought it was a storm because he saw lights flickering. However, when he went out into the hallway, he found Lee banging her head against the wall. She was hitting it so hard that the lights flickered. According to Harris, the mood swings and fighting continued even after Lee became pregnant. His frustrations reached a crisis point in October 1992. After ten months of marriage, he left. In January 1993, he filed for divorce.
On May 6, 1993, Savanna Catherine Todd was born and a battle of visitation rights soon began. Social worker Janya Sommers was appointed by the court to protect Savanna's interests. It was clear to Janya that Lee did not want Harris to have any access to Savanna. However, he felt the opposite; he wanted her to do so.
Lee and Harris underwent psychiatric evaluations. Although one psychiatrist declared Lee to be mentally healthy, another psychiatrist and two psychologists diagnosed her as having a bipolar disorder. This is also known as manic depressive syndrome. She told Janya that she wasn't crazy; however, no one had claimed that she was in the first place. Janya wanted her to get treatment for her disorder. Harris was given full custody of Savanna, citing Lee's outbursts as being likely to jeopardize the well-being of Savanna. Lee was given visitation rights every other weekend.
On Friday, April 22, 1994, Lee picked up Savanna from Harris' mother's house for her fifth visit. She did not talk to him or ask how Savanna was doing. She simply put her in the car and quickly drove off. The next day, she asked a friend for a ride to downtown Charleston. She and Savanna have not been seen since.
Since Savanna's abduction, Harris has had the same recurring nightmare: he is brought into a room full of little girls and is told that one of them is Savanna. It is a test to determine whether or not he is "worthy" of having her. He believes that it is based on his fears of not being able to recognize her or see her again.
It is believed that Lee was helped in her flight by the "Children of the Underground", which was an organization that helped mothers take their children away from supposedly abusive husbands, although Harris denied this. There have been several sightings of her and Savanna since 1994, but they have never been located.
Lee is wanted for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and violating a custody order. Harris is offering a $5000 reward for information in this case.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the October 20, 1995 episode. It was also documented on Dateline.
Results: Captured. Savanna and Lee were located in September 2013 in Australia's Sunshine Coast, where they had been living for several years. Lee had remarried in 1995 and created fictitious names for her and Savanna. She claimed that she abducted her because Harris was abusive. However, doctors found no evidence of abuse at the time. Lee was extradited to the United States, pled guilty to kidnapping, and was sentenced to 21 months in prison and 2 years of supervised release. After being released she was on supervised release until 2017.
Savanna, now known as Samantha Geldenhuys, returned to the United States to support Lee. In 2014, she was reunited with her maternal relatives. In 2015, she was finally reunited with Harris.
- Dorothy Barnett on Unsolved Archive
- Missing for 20 years - Savanna Todd's life as Samantha Geldenhuys
- Savanna Todd stands by mother who took her from Johns Island father
- Savanna Todd Forgives Her Mom For 19-Year-Long Kidnapping, Insists She’s ‘Not A Victim’
- South Carolina woman gets prison for kidnapping daughter and fleeing overseas
- Barnett released after four months in U.S. custody for kidnapping daughter
- Mom Who Abducted Baby Daughter and Spent Nearly 20 Years on the Run Explains Why She Did It
- Mum defends decision to go on the run with her baby for 20 years