Jump to content
Ohmo

S29.E13: Dear Savanna

Recommended Posts

I've watched the Dateline report on this case.  Now I've watched the 48 Hours report, and my opinion has not changed.  I think Harris Todd got hosed, Lee Barnett essentially got away with kidnapping, Samantha has been brainwashed by her mother, and there's two decades of time that Harris will not ever get back.

 

I will concede that there might be a degree of debate about Lee's mental state, but that still doesn't give her the right to do what she did.  Based on the Dateline report, I do believe that Lee did have some degree of mental instability.  Harris may have exaggerated it and not been the life of the party in their marriage, but I don't believe he was evil.  I have also never heard about Harris doing anything to Lee or baby Savanna that would warrant Lee's actions.  She had visitation rights, and Harris didn't deny her what she denied him for decades.  What is most disheartening is how completely Samantha believes her mother's version of events.  You can be raised by a parent witth mental illness and have a wonderful childhood, particularly when the other parent doesn't have mental illness.  I think Harris and Sam's meeting was so awkward because the loss of her as a child broke him, and he's probably never recovered.

  • Like 8

Share this post


Link to post

Ohmo- Interesting, I watched both programs also and I have the exact opposite opinion as you. I remember watching the Dateline episode from the father's point of view and I thought there was something off about him then.

I don't necessarily think what Lee did was right but I understand why she did it. If my baby were taken away from me and I could only see her four days a month I might do the same thing. Lee tried to do things through the court system and the system failed her. I don't believe that Lee was mentally ill and unfit to care for her baby. Lee might have been acting erratic but I would be to if someone were trying to take my baby away from me.

Anyway, I believe that Harris only fought for custody to spite Lee. I seriously doubt that he truly believed Savanna was in danger with her mother. Of course I don't know the man personally so it's possible that I'm wrong but he strikes me as a very cold and vindictive man.

I also completely understand why Samantha is siding with her mom. Her mother raised her and she would absolutely know if her mom were mentally ill.

Maybe my opinion is somewhat biased because I have a baby myself but I would do anything to keep my daughter with me.

Edited by grumpypanda
  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post

It would be hard to take that I wouldn't have my children to and thought I may at least consider doing the same thing. She still got off so easy and I do have sympathy for the father missing all that time with his daughter.

Share this post


Link to post
I also completely understand why Samantha is siding with her mom. Her mother raised her and she would absolutely know if her mom were mentally ill.

 

I disagree that Samantha would know if her mother was mentally ill.  Trust me when I say that, as a child, you don't call mental illness "mental illness."  You call it being quirky or being eccentric or being left-of-center.  Not all mental illness manifests itself as people who hear voices or have lost touch with reality.  It is completely possible to raise children successfully, not have any altercations of any kind, get married, give your children a "happy childhood," and still be mentally ill.  Samantha's assertion that she had a happy childhood may be a statement of fact, but it is not necessarily a declaration of her mother's mental fitness.  Samantha was utterly shocked that her mother could be seen as bipolar.  Not necessarily a shocking possibility either.

 

I do agree that Harris probably exaggerated about Lee during the court case, and that was wrong.  However, if we're talking vindictiveness, I think Lee demonstrated that more than Harris.  Lee ran 64 days after the change of custody.  At the time, Harris was living in the same city as Lee.  Savanna was taken while she was on a visit with Lee.  Lee had the opportunity to spend time with her child.  Yes, it was a limited amount of time, but there was no evidence that Harris was barring the visits or was threatening to take the baby anywhere.  Custody agreements can be amended or changed by the court, but we will never know if that might have been an option because Lee never gave the system a chance.  She said the system "failed her."  What it did was not give her the outcome she wanted at that time, but she still had her parental rights and visitation with her child. 

 

I keep going back to the 64 days.  Courts do fail people.  They are not perfect, but this situation was not old enough or dire enough to convince me that the system had reached the point where it failed Lee.  I understand that she probably loathed Harris, but parents who can't stand each other is not an unusual oircumstance in a custody case.  There is no evidence that Harris injured Savanna or was a threat to her at 9 months old.  Yes, he did make that comment about the psychiatrist, but people say a lot of things in anger, Savanna wasn't 3 yet, and Harris hadn't done anything to carry that potential action out.  Lee's actions were an overreaction to what she perceived might happen, not what actually had happened.  To go to this extreme after 64 days seems to either bolster Harris' claim that she could be volatile or suggest that she was the one who wanted to win at all costs, not Harris.  Having custody of a child and keeping a child away from a parent are not the same thing.  Harris was not keeping the baby from Lee.  Might he have at some point in the future?  Maybe, but we don't know that, and Lee was acting like she was setting of an atomic bomb when a firecracker might have been more reasonable at that stage of the proceedings.  Her response seems disproportionate to me.

 

I also don't like the undertone that the blond, smiling lady is good, and the older, serious guy is bad.  Lee doesn't like Harris.  I get that.  I'm sure he's not perfect, but "evil" is a very loaded word.  Harris was a wealthy and powerful man.  He may not have been a very nice person, but there are a lot of not-very-nice people in the world.  That's not the same thing as evil, and I have heard nothing that is anywhere close to justifying taking his daughter away from him for what seems like, even now, could be forever.  There were no physical injuries to Savanna, no threats of abuse by Harris, no threats by Harris to leave with the baby.  Nothing like that.

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post

I don't know if Samantha would have realized that her mom was mentally ill as a child but she's an adult now and she would remember if her mom had a raging temper or erratic mood swings when she was a child. I believe Samantha when she said she never saw that kind of behavior in her mom. My best friend is bipolar and when she's off her medication she's a completely different person. I just don't see how Lee could function as well as she has without medication if she really were bipolar.

Anyway, I don't know why but something about Harris rubbed me the wrong way the first time I saw this story. I still see him as a rich guy with connections that used his money and power to get one over on his ex and his plan backfired.

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post

I watched both shows and I sided with the mom both times.  I didn't have much sympathy for the father at all, probably because he fought for custody against the mom.  I think if he had just wanted visitation rights I might have had more sympathy for him, but as is I didn't have any.

 

I also think there was something on Dateline about Harris's mom having knocked the baby on her head while in his custody, so maybe that contributed to Lee's fleeing so soon?

Edited by partofme
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

The one thing that sealed it for me in siding with Lee was the fact that Samantha point blank asked her dad to explain his allegations about her mother and he has yet to answer.

If he thought he was so right and believed what he was saying to be true then answer her.  Tell her why you said her mother was a nutcase in court records.  She deserves to know.  The fact that he hasn't answered speaks volumes.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

I have mixed feelings about this.  I do think Harris was misleading about Lee's mental condition, and I seriously doubt if she was as violent and unpredictable as he claimed she was that she would have been able to raise a fairly stable family.  Most people (at least that were shown on TV) seemed to believe she was relatively sane.  I do believe he was gaslighting her, and I can only imagine her anger.  My problem is that, he never denied her visitation or even requested supervised visitation yet she decided her only recourse was to steal away with the child.  I feel for Lee a little more than I do for Harris, but I have children, and I can certainly sympathize on both sides of the spectrum.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

2 things: First, can someone summarize the last 5 or 10 minutes for me please? Due to programming running late, the show didn't start on time so my DVR cut off the last part of it - starting with the very beginning of the discussion of Samantha's first meeting with her father.

Second, I also have mixed feelings about this. Admittedly, my point of view may be clouded by my personal experience. My ex husband and I split up when our son was just 2 months old after I found out my husband had a pregnant girlfriend. His second child was born when my son was 3 or 4 months old. He has never paid a dime in child support and has seen our son (who is now 10) only about a half-dozen times. We live in the same small town and see him with his 4th wife often.

With that being said, I don't trust Harrison. But by the same token, I don't trust Lee either. I think they both made mistakes and I have no idea who is telling the truth. Ironically my biggest problem is the lawsuits filed by Harrison against Lee's family and friends. From what we were shown, he had no evidence or proof that they were involved in helping her flee. But despite that, he sued them anyway - bankrupting at least one of them. That level of spite and vindictiveness made me dislike him intensely. Did that bother anyone else or just me?

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Something about the father did bother me a lot. It seemed he didn't give a hoot about the child until the mother wanted to have sole care of her.  Something about him was ... IDK what ...


Something about the father did bother me a lot. It seemed he didn't give a hoot about the child until the mother wanted to have sole care of her.  Something about him was ... IDK what ...

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Quote

From what we were shown, he had no evidence or proof that they were involved in helping her flee. But despite that, he sued them anyway - bankrupting at least one of them. That level of spite and vindictiveness made me dislike him intensely. Did that bother anyone else or just me?

I could be wrong, but I'd seriously doubt Lee was able to do what she did without any help from anyone.  It wasn't entirely clear, but they did make it sound as though one of her brothers was with her on the day she fled, and at least had knowledge of her changing her appearance and heading for the airport.  I'd also say Lee shares the blame here because she fled and left everyone else to face the consequences.   

It's a difficult episode.  It isn't clear who should be believed.  Maybe there was a time when Lee was more volatile than she was in later years.  Maybe Harris was vindictive and tried to paint her as mentally ill to punish her and take full custody.  I can't really tell.  Harris didn't sound all that great, but Lee has shown herself to be an accomplished liar given she lived for nearly two decades under a false identity.      

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post

Had the dad fled with the child, everyone would side with the mom. I always find this so interesting. As a society, we always tend to side with mom even if what she did was illegal. 

 

It doesn't matter if you think the mom should have had custody. It doesn't matter if the dad seems off or lying to you. The fact is, mom fled and she had no right to take the child from the father.

I can see why the dad didn't explain the allegations to his daughter. She already wants nothing to do with him and completely sides with her mom. She wouldn't believe him anyways and she'd just use it as another reason to have nothing to do with him. 

  • Like 12

Share this post


Link to post
Quote

I can see why the dad didn't explain the allegations to his daughter. She already wants nothing to do with him and completely sides with her mom. She wouldn't believe him anyways and she'd just use it as another reason to have nothing to do with him. 

That's the most tragic thing here, I think.  Even if Harris was telling the complete truth, I doubt the daughter would ever believe him.  Lee clearly sees herself as a victim, and I have no doubt that view has trickled down to her daughter.  I'm sure Lee's family and friends have likely reinforced that idea for her.   

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×