Jailed mum's letter tells of life after kidnapping child

FAMILY TURMOIL: Samantha Geldenhuys/Savanna Todd reflects on her mother’s kidnapping charges.
FAMILY TURMOIL: Samantha Geldenhuys/Savanna Todd reflects on her mother’s kidnapping charges. Sunday Night

DOROTHY Lee Barnett's former neighbour has found her heartfelt letter she wrote the day before fleeing America with her 10-month-old baby two decades ago.

Bruce Michell had no idea the neighbour he'd come to respect as Alex Geldenhuys was actually a wanted FBI felon until police swooped on her Mountain Creek home in November 2013.

Barnett was taken into custody, extradited to her former hometown of Charleston in America where she was found guilty of kidnapping in February and sentenced to 21 months jail.

She was due to be released late last week.

It was while clearing out Barnett's Mountain Creek home, Mr Michell found the letter in the attic she wrote as a terrified mum about to be on-the-run in April 1994.

He also found a letter Barnett wrote to her best friend four years after her frantic escape.

A letter she could never send for fear it would alert authorities to her whereabouts.

Mr Michell has always supported Barnett, throughout her arrest, her conviction and he will be there for her release and to try and help her return to the Sunshine Coast "the place she regards as home".

The Daily report on February 13.
The Daily report on February 13.

Mr Michell said he was totally convinced of Barnett's need to flee after reading her letters.

Barnett has always claimed she fled because she feared her ex-husband.

Her claims have never been proved, with the court granting him full-custody after finding she suffered from a mental illness she has always disputed.

The Daily could only print parts of her letter, written on April 20, 1994, because of legal concerns.

She tells how she recently lost custody "to my beautiful 9 1/2 month old nursing baby".

"No legal system should be allowed to play God, by taking a baby from a good mother," she wrote.

"That brings me to the fact no one could say I have done anything but a great job with my daughter."

She wrote how she came to realise "a mother has only one choice if she wants to protect her child".

"I've prayed over and over again that someone would help me protect my daughter, but no one cares!

"I was told we could get to the Supreme Court by two weeks, earliest and 30 days the latest. It has now been 62 days since they took my daughter away.

"I promise to always protect Savanna from any more harm. We have an incredible bond that none can break.

The Daily report on November 25, last year.
The Daily report on November 25, last year.

"After all it is a lot easier to believe a mother is crazy than to believe she would do anything to protect her daughter.

"I've never broken the law, always payed my taxes, was a homeowner and had a job, stable life be damned if all it does is take your most precious possession away.

"No one knows of my decision or whereabouts. I've acted only alone.

"God gave me the ability to have Savanna and I've given myself the ability to protect her ..."

Four years later she wrote to her "dearest friend Susie" from a hotel in Israel. These are excerpts:

"I can't believe it's nearly four years since I've seen you," she wrote.

"That is in person anyway, because there is not a night that goes by that you are not in my thoughts and dreams.

"Speaking of being away, please pray we will maintain that for at least another 10 years!

"My guardian angel has been wonderful. We are doing great.

"I don't know if I am cut out for it but I do thank God for the opportunity.

"What does make me sad is not being able to share my children with all the people I love."

Topics:  dorothy lee barnett editors picks jail kidnap

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Snitz sizzles to win qualifier with ease

IN FULL FLIGHT: Brisbane jockey Robbie Fradd streaks clear to win the $150,000 NRRA Country Championships qualifier on board Snitz, trained by Matt Dunn, at Clarence River Jockey Club.

SHORT priced favourite sends everybody home happy.

Ballina Players brings popular military drama to the stage

ON STAGE: John Rado as Colonel Nathan Jessep and Dylan Wheeler as Lt Daniel Kaffee in the Ballina Players production of A Few Good Men.

Tickets are on sale for their new production of A Few Good Men

Triumph of dreams ... it all started with one bike

A CLASSIC: Meerschaum Vale's Col McAndrew with his Triumph 1956 Speed Twin which he will show at the Northern Rivers Classic Motorcycle Club's Show and Shine at Alstonville Plaza on March 18.

Col has six classic bikes; 100 expected at show

Local Partners