Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Police say girl raped, then relocated

By Trent Spiner
Concord Monitor
Concord, New Hampshire
May 25, 2010

“After being raped and impregnated by a fellow churchgoer more than twice her age, a 15-year-old Concord girl was forced by Trinity Baptist Church leaders to stand before the congregation to apologize before they helped whisk her out of state, according to the police.

While her pastor, Chuck Phelps, reported the alleged rape in 1997 to state youth officials, Concord police detectives were never able to find the victim. The victim said she was sent to another church member's home in Colorado, where she was home-schooled and not allowed to have contact with others her age. It wasn't until this past February that the victim, who is now 28, decided to come forward after reading about other similar cases, realizing for the first time it wasn't her fault that she had been raped, she told the police.

The police arrested Ernest Willis, 51, of Gilford, last week in connection with the case, accusing him of raping the girl twice - once in the back seat of a car he was teaching her to drive in and again after showing up at her Concord home while her parents were away. He was charged with four felonies - two counts of rape and two counts of having sex with a minor, court records show. . . .

At the time of the alleged rape, Phelps was in touch with the police, who told him to contact the Division for Children, Youth and Families.

But moving the girl out of state prevented the police from collecting evidence or a statement, the police said yesterday.

‘Without a victim, it makes it very difficult to have a case,’ said Lt. Keith Mitchell. ‘That basically made the investigation very difficult.’

At the time, Willis also refused to give a statement, police records show.

So for 13 years, a file on the case sat closed and marked ‘unresolved’ at the Concord police station. . . .

Phelps did not return a message seeking comment yesterday. He no longer works at the church.

‘The leadership of Trinity Baptist Church reported this alleged crime within 24 hours of hearing the accusations on Oct. 8, 1997,’ said spokesman Peter Flint from a prepared statement. ‘We continue in our commitment to cooperate with authorities so that justice is served.’

'Completely in shock'

The victim said she came forward after getting in touch with Jocelyn Zichterman, who runs an online group for victims of church abuse.

In a seven-page statement to the police, the victim recounted the moments leading up to her departure from New Hampshire.

At 14, she began babysitting for Willis, a well-known member of the church. She told the police she would often stay the night if he got home late.

Just over a year later, he offered to give her driving lessons. While in the parking lot of a Concord business, Willis asked her to pull over to switch seats, she told the police.

But instead he pulled her into the backseat and raped her, according to a statement to the police.

In the summer of 1997, Willis raped her again, this time while at her home while her mother was out, according to police records.

‘I was completely in shock, but too scared to go and tell anyone because I thought I would get blamed for what happened,’ she said.

Over the next few months, the girl became suspicious she was pregnant. She called Willis, who brought over a pregnancy test that came up positive, she told the police.

‘He asked me if I wanted him to take me to a neighboring state where underage abortions were legal . . . and he would pay for an abortion,’ she told the police. ‘He then asked me if I wanted him to punch me in the stomach as hard as he could because that might cause a miscarriage.’

She declined both.

'Church discipline'

The victim told her mother about the pregnancy. Soon after, Phelps was also alerted.

The victim said Phelps told her she would be put up for ‘church discipline,’ where parishioners go before the congregation to apologize for their sins.

She asked why. ‘Pastor Phelps then said that (Willis) may have been 99 percent responsible, but I needed to confess my 1 percent guilt in the situation,’ the victim told the police.

‘He told me that I should be happy that I didn't live in Old Testament times because I would have been stoned.’

Fran Earle, the church's former clerk, witnessed the punishment session.

At a night meeting of the church's fellowship in 1997, Phelps invited Willis to the front of the room. Willis apologized to the group for not being faithful to his wife, Earle said. . . .

Phelps then told parishioners a second matter was at hand; he invited the victim to apologize for getting pregnant.

‘I can still see the little girl standing up there with this smile on her face trying to get through this,’ Earle said.

A day after the session, Earle called the pastor's wife, who said the victim had decided not to press charges for statutory rape.

‘You've got to understand, we trusted our pastor and his wife to be telling us the truth,’ Earle said. ‘They told us it had been reported. He reported it as a consensual act between a man and a woman. Well, I didn't know a 15-year-old was a woman.’

Earle, who left the church in 2001 after 19 years, said it was regular to see young girls who were pregnant called to the front of the congregation to be humiliated.

Rob Sims, another former member, said the discipline sessions were formulaic - Phelps would read Bible verses, give a limited overview of what happened and then each person would read a statement.

‘(The) statement agreed that they had done wrong and why they 'now believed' that they had sinned,’ he said. ‘Then Pastor Phelps would give a few closing remarks and then a vote would be taken to remove the guilty party from membership or to keep them in membership but under discipline, or something to that effect.’

The police said the victim's family asked for her to be moved to Colorado.

‘I think that she clearly did not want to go to Colorado, and I'm quite sure she expressed that to the church, her mother and the pastor,’ said Concord police Detective Chris DeAngelis. ‘However, she was a juvenile. Her mom requests assistance and that was what they came up with.’

Mitchell said the police are looking at pressing other charges.

Willis was released on $100,000 personal recognizance bail. He faces an arraignment June 16 in Concord District Court."

Reporter Trent Spiner is seeking information from anyone with knowledge or memories about what happened. In addition to Trinity Baptist in Concord, New Hampshire, there is reportedly a Baptist church in Westminster, Colorado, that also has a connection to this story. You can reach Trent Spiner at tspiner@cmonitor.com. If you have information, please contact the police as well.

As reported by the Associated Press, Phelps “is now a pastor in Indianapolis.” Here’s the church website with a picture of Phelps. It’s Colonial Hills Baptist in Indianapolis.

As reported by the Associated Press on May 27, 2010, even as police are seeking information about this case, current Trinity Baptist pastor, Brian Fuller, “sent an email to congregation members” which “contains two statements advising parishioners to remain silent.” Fuller told congregants “I love you tenderly and am confident you will only talk of these matters to our Lord in prayer.”

See also "Alleged rape cover-up implicates multiple pastors, multiple churches," 5/30/10


gmommy said...

So a 15 year old child has to stand before the church in obedience to her "pastor". She "confesses" her "1% sin" of being raped by an ADULT...I think a married adult in this church.
Not one person stands up to speak in her defense? Not one person has a brain developed enough to apply the most basic principals of Christianity.
Everyone there was that sick and twisted? Or that dependent on a "pastor" to think?
Her parents are so weak they allow this child to be victimized further but this time in a crowd?

I bet those reading would like to think this happens only in small redneck, uneducated, Baptist churches. But it happens in the larger churches also where you would think someone had some brains, a heart, and some guts.
The church is NOT a safe place.

Jeri said...

This story has really gone viral, praise the Lord. It's been picked up on the AP wire.

John said...

My son got involved in a situation like this at a church he attended. I told him that while he was doing the right thing to try to expose a staff member's son who repeatedly hit on girls who were minors, in the en he would most likely bethe one to have to leave the church. He fought thisbattle for almost a year and ended up "being encouraged" to find another place to worship. This type of behavior is widespread. When it comes to having real courage to stand for the truth and protect the innocent it appears that most church members just do not have the will nor the backbone to do either

Ken Pulliam said...

And Chuck Phelps is the Vice Chairman of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, former President of Maranatha Baptist College and current Pastor of Colonial Hills Baptist Church, a large church in Indy.

It will be interesting to see what the leadership of fundmamental Baptists have to say about this.

And the church is to blame too. Didn't they recognize that the girl was underage? They should have immediately gone to the police. And what about the girl's parents? where in the name of god were they during all of this?

Jeri said...

Ken, if my experience is a valid pointer, the fundies won't say a word about it. Shoot, Bob Gray was molesting kids for decades and the guy who covered for him (Tom Messer) was made moderator of the Southwide Baptist Fellowship, and Jerry Falwell called the victims a bump in the road, and STILL not a fundy opened his mouth to speak on behalf of the innocent.

They'll try to maintain a silence, and if they get pressed by the media or a shouting mob, they will insist that Phelps followed the law and reported the crime. (He did report it. He neglected to tell the cops that he had spirited the girl away.)

The girl's parents were apparently two brain dead nincompoops with cult mentalities.

Christa Brown said...

Thanks for the info on Pastor Chuck Phelps' current whereabouts. Colonial Hills Baptist Church is a very large church in Indianapolis with a pastoral staff of eight, and Phelps is at the helm. It says that, earlier in his career, pastor Phelps served as a youth pastor in Minnesota and Colorado. So... I'm wondering if that's when he made connections with Baptists in Colorado who were willing to help in hiding this girl and covering up for the crime.

Christa Brown said...

To Jeri's remarks, I would add that, not only did no one in Baptistland say a word to promote any accountability for pastor Tom Messer, who was at the helm of a church with one of the all-time biggest child sex scandals, but high Southern Baptist leaders even invited Tom Messer to be a featured speaker at their annual pastors' conference in Florida, thereby promoting his career even further and holding him up as an example of pastoral leadership. So... not only is there zero accountability, but in Baptistland, there's praise and promotion for those who keep quiet about clergy sex abuse.

Jeri said...

Yes, according to people on Facebook. Phelps pastored at the church in Colorado where the young lady was sent, before he'd come to New Hampshire. And Jocelyn says the police have talked with that Colorado pastor. There's a lot of community outrage about the story being expressed on the CONCORD MONITOR:

Concord Article Comments

Christa Brown said...

Just noticed this online comment saying that accused rapist was a deacon in the church.

Anonymous said...

"and Jerry Falwell called the victims a bump in the road,"

I would love to see any link to this statement. It goes to the heart of the foundational depravity at Liberty. Espcially in light of the recent Caner scandal.

Oh, and the prof Moon scandal.

All these folks really think little of women, don't they.

Christa Brown said...

A link to Jerry Falwell's "bump in the road" comment.

gmommy said...

Hey Jeri,
Where are these discussions on FB? I searched around and couldn't pick up anything.

the teacher's pets said...

I was not surprised one bit that Pastor Phelps and his cronies thwarted the rape case and I should know because I was a member of the church and I was there when the apologies took place and I thought it was completely unbiblical, unkind, and disgusting! I remember the scene after the apologies; Ernie sat at the back of the church w/his longsuffering wife and their beautiful girls and I noticed more well-wishers offer support to Ernie rather than to the girl who was pregnant. I remember it announced that the girl was to go away (no 1 knew where)and I thought it was awful that she had to leave while Ernie got to stay at the church (although he did lose his deaconship role or usher role, not sure which).

I lost all respect for Pastor Phelps and his clan as soon as he issued the statements about Ernie and his babysitter and I lost even further respect for Pastor Phelps approximately one year later (9/12/99) when I was church disciplined because I refused to go back to my husband (at the time) who was verbally & emotionally abusive but the Pastor turned a deaf ear on my situation b/c he felt it was (and I quote) "my cross to bear" and "I knew what he was like before I married him" and "I don't see any scars on you" and he also didn't think I was working on the relationship with my ex. So thankfully I had 1 more semester left at Pensacola Christian College in the summer of 1999 & even though it was a strict college (and cultish) I experienced freedom that I've never known before & it was my chance to be away from the cultish Trinity Baptist Church who only supported my ex as if he was some kind of hero simply because he was faithfully attending the church and b/c he was tall & handsome (he didn't look as haggard as I did when we attended together because I was in tears on the way to church b/c he was yelling at me all the way to church most times).

Eventually the Pastor & others tried to talk me into going back to NH but I refused and then THE CHURCH DISCIPLINE notification letter arrived in the mail which was dated August 24, 1999. The letter stated that since I had filed for divorce I would be church disciplined on the evening of September 12, 1999 I would be taken off the church membership list, ex-communicated from the church, and ultimately cast out into Satan's world. I asked if I could take my name off the membership list but I was told that once my name is on the list I cannot remove it; only the Pastor could! Unbelievable! I should've asked for the list of rules before I joined this cult.

Needless to say, my ex-husband was supported by the church (even though they did not know the REAL STORY) & I was a cast-off much like the pregnant girl was tossed aside. Prior to my UNBIBLICAL church discipline I thought of the babysitter who was humiliated in front of the entire church and I felt a kinship to her because we were both treated unfairly by a church who was supposed to represent Christ and what a poor representation they were for both of us. I wish her every good thing imaginable and I hope she is finds solace in knowing that justice will finally be served so she can find peace.

Jeri said...

For gmommy:

Christa Brown said...

Teachers' Pets: Thanks for sharing your story here. It's important for others to know how common these patterns are. And I could not possibly agree with you more... in your story and in so many others... "what a poor representation" of Christ these sorts of Baptist churches are.

And if you think these things happen only in the "fundamentalist" Baptist churches, think again. Remember the story of Debbie Vasquez? The Baptist pastor who abused her is in a church affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which claims to be "moderate" Baptists. As reported in the Nashville Scene, for Debbie, "when her pregnancy made three years of abuse hard to hide... the church’s senior pastor called Vasquez into his office and asked who the father was, she told him. And Vasquez says he made her march to the front of the church during Sunday service and ask her fellow churchgoers for their forgiveness. She was forced to confess that she was a pregnant, unwed teenager. But she was forbidden from fingering Amyx as the father—a fact that was not only proven years later in a paternity test...." Despite all that, and despite the extensive media that surrounded Debbie's case, the last I heard, Amyx was still pastoring a Baptist church that is affiliated with the so-called "moderate" Baptist General Convention of Texas. No one in Baptistland did diddly-squat.

The problem throughout Baptistland is an utter lack of any systems for clergy accountability.

Jeri said...

Here is a link to an interview with Tina, the woman who was raped at 15:

Fox News interviews Tina Anderson

Jeri said...

Here is an interview with Chuck Phelps, the pastor who sent her away:

Chuck Phelps interview

gmommy said...

Yay for Tina! It takes courage to do what she is doing! The article with Tina is very good.
The article with the minister sounds very selfish and wimpy.
HE wants an apology! HE has been WRONGED!!! Dang...the bold self absorption of these guys always amazes me. You would think after seeing victims called "opportunists" that I would just expect this arrogance from the pastor.
I hope by Tina being open that other victims of this church pervert will come forward.
Gotta love the manipulative way the current pastor told everyone to stay quiet.

Christa Brown said...

"Gotta love the manipulative way the current pastor told everyone to stay quiet."

Yup. Typical Baptist hush-it-up manipulation and control tactics. As reported by the Associated Press, even as police are seeking to obtain more information, Trinity Baptist's current pastor, Brian Fuller, sent to members of the congregation an email with "two statements advising parishioners to remain silent."

"I love you tenderly," he told them, "and am confident you wil only talk of these matters to our Lord in prayer."

gmommy said...

His words sound very much like the "scary voice" of a predator.
I know there are decent Baptist ministers out there but unless this whole corruption, cover up, pastor's authority on steroids thing is exposed and the hearts of these "leaders" are changed, I just can't go back to a Baptist church.
Glad my grand babies aren't being brought to one either.

Doug said...

I said this on another blog, but I would like to repeat it here....

All I can think of at this point is:

Jeremiah 23:2

2 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.

AND Ezekiel 34:12

12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

My prayer is that GOD continues to use us "minions" and clean up men like these, - and others I personally know -, and get those out of the ministry that need to be gone...

And until that is done, The Truth must continue to March on.......

Following Christ, Not Man;
Doug Pittman


Anonymous said...

This story is just horrendous. I am at a loss for words. Why? I just don't understand how these men can so arrogantly make the statements they are making. The comments on the articles are sickening...the discussions in the forums are shocking.

Doug...your words from God's Word were like a salve on many re-opened wounds. Bless you.

Following Christ, not man indeed!


FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Christa - if you go to Phelps' Indianapolis church's website, you can listen to Phelps' sermons.

Listen to the one dated 4/21/10, entitled "Understanding Church Discipline".

He even uses an illustration in his sermon about a teenage girl that is impregnated and has to come before the church and admit her sin.

The sermon is chilling. He invokes OT passages about how "sin in the camp", just one sinner in the church, will stop up God's blessings and thus they must be dealt with.

I downloaded it just in case is mysteriously disappears.

Christa Brown said...

...just in case is mysteriously disappears."

Funny how that seems to happen so often in Baptistland, isn't it?

Glad you downloaded it, Watchdog. I think it's important to preserve as much of a historical record as we possibly can. How else will people make the future better if they don't learn from the past? And how will people learn from the past if the past is erased by the very people who commit such horrors?

Jeri said...

Seen this?
Tina says in a news article in the Concord Monitor that she was previously molested by a convicted sex offender in the church. Phelps told her to forgive and move on.