Monday, January 22, 2001

Fla. truck driver father of abandoned girl

The Associated Press

        LAKE STATION, Ind. — A 5-year-old girl abandoned at a restaurant more than a week ago has been identified as the daughter of a Florida truck driver, police said.

        Authorities are considering whether to return Christina Lynn Miller to her father, Theo Miller, 29, of Ocala, Fla. Police said he left her and her 3-year-old brother in the care of a woman he had known for five days.

        The girl will remain in the custody of the Lake County Office of Family and Children until officers question her father and a judge decides what to do with her.

        “Right now, we're really just waiting to see how things unfold,” said Bruce Hillman, director of the Family and Children office.

        Police continued searching Saturday for the woman who had been watching Christina. The woman could face criminal charges, Lake Station police Lt. Mike Stills said.

        “If we can pursue abandonment and neglect charges on anybody's part, we'll certainly pursue that to the fullest,” Lt. Stills said.

        The search for Christina's parents began after an off-duty police officer spotted her at a McDonald's about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 9, about two hours after restaurant workers first saw her near the door.

        Christina told authorities her name and age, but couldn't tell them her birthday, her parents' names or where she lived.

        On Thursday, a southern Indiana man saw the story of Christina on a news program. He realized she was the same 5-year-old girl who had been reported missing from a trucker's home in Lexington, Ind., a small town about 30 miles north of Louisville.

        Police said Christina's journey began at an Oklahoma truck stop on New Year's Eve, when her father met a woman and invited her to return to Florida with him.

        He had just started making cross-country trucking runs, and he said he asked her to baby-sit his children. By Jan. 5 he was back on the road, leaving his children with the woman.

        “That's where I made my first mistake,” Mr. Miller said. “I just thought I was doing the right thing, and it backfired on me.”

        Police said the woman took the children, Mr. Miller's car, and the $400 he had given her and left. She headed north into Georgia, where she met Karl Anderson, a Scott County, Ind., trucker who offered the three a place to stay.

        They drove to Scott County and were there one night before Mr. Anderson left on another trip. The woman, without consulting Mr. Miller, allowed the boy to go with him, police said.

        Then, on Jan. 9, the woman disappeared, taking Christina with her, police said. The girl was found that night in Lake Station, about 30 miles southeast of Chicago.

        “We were talking on a day-to-day basis, sometimes more than twice a day — that was the understanding,” Mr. Miller said. “When she did not contact me, I really started worrying.”

        Meanwhile, Mr. Miller's 3-year-old son was on his way to Utah with Mr. Anderson. Along the route, the boy told Mr. Anderson his father's name and said he was a trucker.

        Mr. Anderson called trucking companies and tracked down Mr. Miller, who came to Scott County to pick up his son.

        Mr. Miller — who says he has filed for divorce from his wife — then filed a missing-person report in Scott County.


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