Dorothy Barnett has faced a court in her former home state of South Carolina after her arrest in Queensland on a child kidnapping charge.
Dorothy Lee Barnett, accused of abducting her infant daughter in the US in 1994 and travelling the world before living a secret life in Australia under an alias, has appeared in a South Carolina court.
Barnett, 54, dressed in a grey and white prison jumpsuit, smiled and chuckled during Monday’s arraignment in Charleston’s federal court, The Post and Courier newspaper reported.
She entered not guilty pleas to one count of international parental kidnapping and two counts of falsifying US passport applications.
An almost two-decade global search by US authorities and Barnett’s former husband, Benjamin Harris Todd III, ended on November 4 last year when a tip led them to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Barnett was arrested and her daughter, Savanna, now 21 and who went by the name Samantha Geldenhuys, discovered she was not who she thought she was.
Barnett, a flight attendant, and Todd, a stockbroker, wed in 1991 in South Carolina, but the marriage quickly crumbled and Barnett filed for divorce while pregnant with Savanna.
A bitter divorce and custody battle ensued, with Todd winning full custody.
In April 1994, Barnett had a supervised visit with Savanna and disappeared, allegedly living in Europe, South Africa and New Zealand before settling in Queensland.
Barnett, who faces a 30-year jail sentence, was extradited from Queensland to the US last week.
US judge Bristow Marchant ordered Barnett, who did not apply for bail, be held in the Charleston County Jail.
Todd was not in court to face his former wife.
“He is aware of Lee’s return and appreciative of the dedication of the FBI and Department of Justice over the 20-year span since his daughter was kidnapped,” Todd’s lawyer, Graham Sturgis, told AAP.
“He hopes that this will shed light on the devastating problem of parental kidnappings so that other parents and children won’t suffer its tragic effects.”
Todd never gave up hope of finding Savanna and continually updated her bedroom so it would be age appropriate for her return.
Sturgis pointed to a US Department of Justice report, The Crime of Family Abduction: A Child’s and Parent’s Perspective, to show the pain victims of child abduction endure.