NBC’s ‘Dateline: Finding Savanna’ features the story of Harris Todd as he struggled to find his infant daughter who was allegedly abducted by her biological mother in 1994. His search came to an end more than two decades later, as he recounted on the episode the means he employed to look for his stolen daughter. The episode tries to understand the complicated relationship they share now. So, who is Harris Todd, and where is he now? Let’s find out.
Who is Harris Todd?
Harris Todd, aka Benjamin Harris Todd III, was a stockbroker when he met the beautiful flight attendant Dorothy Lee Barnett in the early 90s. With his love of poetry and introverted attitude, he was the picture of a perfect southern gentleman to many. Dorothy said in an interview, “Oh, not at all … it wasn’t love at first sight. It was friendship.” However, the dynamics changed five years later when Harris proposed to Dorothy. She added, “He just professed to me that I’d made him feel different than anybody else has ever made him feel. And then one thing led to another.”
Even though her friends disapproved of the match owing to the couple’s contrasting natures, they got married. Dorothy’s friend, Patty Roth, said, “They wanted very different things out of life. She was very outgoing, and he kind of kept to himself.” She added, “Lee wanted children. Harris was very clear– to everyone that he never wanted children. When she told him that she was pregnant is when all the problems started between the two of them.”
Harris denied the allegations and blamed their marital issues on Dorothy’s uncontrollable temper. After a few arguments turned into alleged violent altercations, the couple attended marriage counseling. Their psychiatrist, Dr. Oliver Bjorksten, stated she had a hyperthymic temperament – characterized by blaming and temper outbursts. After they filed for divorce and fought a bitter custody battle, Harris won the custody rights of their daughter, Savanna, on February 18, 1994.
However, Dorothy fled with their 11-month-old daughter within two months of losing her custodial rights, and that would be the last time Harris saw his daughter in more than two decades. He went to the FBI, appeared periodically on national television, sued Dorothy’s family, and even recruited the help of former “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh to film a public service announcement pleading for Savanna’s return. He had given up all hope and started to move on until he received an unexpected email in 2011.
Where is Harris Todd Now?
The email was sent by an Australian couple, claiming they knew Dorothy and Savanna but as Alex and Samantha for more than a decade. They also sent an image of the mother-daughter duo, and he immediately recognized his fugitive former wife. Armed with the information, the FBI showed up at Dorothy’s doorstep in the Australian beach town of Mooloolaba and arrested her on charges of international parental kidnapping and two counts of passport fraud in 2013. She was extradited to Charleston, South Carolina, and sentenced to 21 months in prison.
Harris flew to Australia hoping to meet his long-lost daughter, but Savanna, studying in college then, declined to meet him. He had to return to the United States without seeing her. However, he wrote back to her about how pleased he was with her bright college grades after Savanna penned him a letter. The father-daughter met a few years later, and he gave her a two-and-a-half-hour tour of his house, showing off his prized possessions. However, Savanna recalled their first meeting was a little awkward.
Harris recalled hugging his daughter and showing her the room where her crib still stood. He said, “To be honest, I was trying to make sure that I didn’t fall apart. I didn’t want to just stand there and cry or anything like that.” According to him, they have not seen each other since. However, Harris understood the awkward situation and conveyed, “You know my daughter is her person now. She can make her own decisions.”
He added, “Whether my daughter wants to contact me or not, she knows where I am, and she knows I want to hear from her, whatever happens.” Savanna is open to having a relationship with her biological father as long as he does not make her stay away from Dorothy. She said, “I have been very lenient with all the stuff that he has said, and I want to know if he will be the same with me when this comes out.” Coming to his current standing, from what we can tell, Harris continues to reside in Charleston, South Carolina.
Read More: Where is Savanna Todd Now?