A Virginia pastor goes on trial this week on charges he helped a woman flee the country to avoid sharing custody of her daughter with her former lesbian partner.
46-year-old Kenneth L. Miller is a well known Mennonite pastor from Stuarts Draft, about 100 miles northwest of Richmond. The trial that begins Tuesday is expected to break new ground on a story involving same-sex partners, alleged abduction, and an international escapade.
Rev. Miller is pastor at the Pilgrim Church on the outskirts of the 9,000-person town. He's now on his way to Vermont, where his trial begins Tuesday.
Residents like Simon Schrock will be paying attention.
"And, frankly, there is some nervousness there. Because we don't know the outcome of these things," Schrock said Monday.
In 2009, Miller and other Mennonites helped move unrelated Lisa Miller and her then 7-year-old daughter Isabella from the U.S. to Nicaragua, prosecutors said. Before that, Lisa Miller had dissolved a civil union in Vermont with another woman. Prosecutors said she became an evangelical Christian, renounced the lesbian lifestyle, and broke-off visitation with her daughter's other legal mother.
Fearing the court would take her daughter Lisa Miller sought a way out, according to prosecutors. They allege Ken Miller drove Lisa and her daughter from Virginia to Buffalo, New York. From there, a report in the New York Times said the two took a taxi to Canada, then flew to Mexico City, el Salvador, and finally, Nicaragua - where they haven't been heard from in three years.
Back in Stuarts Draft, Simon said it's not the talk of the town yet... but that may change soon.
"I'm surprised that people whom we know would make international news. Frankly, we're small-town country people," Schrock said.
The trial is expected to shine new light on how the woman and the pastor met, how religion guided them, and maybe... just where is young Isabella, now?
Miller's family here declined to comment, and his attorneys did not speak to reporters in Vermont.
Rev. Miller faces up to three years in prison if convicted of aiding Lisa Miller's escape.
The trial is expected to last six days.