Thursday, July 28, 2011

Notes from the Trial Part FOUR

***In this section of the trial notes, Bethany puts any of her own thoughts inside parentheses.

3:20 p.m. Now Chris Leaf, Tina’s mother, is taking the stand. She is crying and Ruth Davis, a member of Trinity Baptist Church, Concord NH, is holding her arm as she walks to the stand.

Wayne Coull questions Chris Leaf.

Wayne: Who is Tina Anderson?

Chris: Tina is my baby

Wayne: Do you still keep in contact with Tina?

Chris: No. That’s her choice.

Wayne: Did you know your husband was a sexual abuser?

Chris: Yes. DSF took care of that.

Wayne: He went to jail 3 times. For abuse?

Chris: For spanking our children.

Wayne: Who is Daniel Leaf married to?

Chris: His wife.

(Several of the jury and the people in the courtroom stifled their laughter).

Wayne: Your husband took a plea bargain. So at some point, your husband was an abuser. Despite the fact that Dan abused your kids, you continued to let him back in the house.

Chris: Yes. I thought he was a good father. He did the best that he could do.

Wayne: Are you in communication with Chuck Phelps?

Chris: I support Pastor Chuck Phelps. I support the truth. Not lies.

Wayne: So you support truth? The same truth that sent your husband to jail?

Chris. Yes. I support Pastor Phelps. My husband, sometimes.

Wayne: You did not hire your own attorney, did you?

Chris: (long silence. No reply. She refuses to answer as to who is funding her attorney).

Wayne asks some more questions…

Chris: I view Pastor Phelps as a leader. Some may call him Chuck. I don’t. It was my idea to move Tina to Colorado. I have my own brain. I don’t just follow everything Pastor Phelps says!

Wayne: Tina was a good kid, right?

Chris: (long pause). Tina gave me a hard time. She was stubborn.

Wayne: and she was not interested in boys? Had no boyfriends?

Chris: I don’t know. That was 14 years ago. And I do not know what Tina did when I was not home.

Wayne: But she was a good kid?

Chris: She was a good babysitter.

Wayne: Was Tina scared and crying when she told you she was pregnant?

Chris: If Tina said she was crying, then I guess she was.

(Tina is crying. Her shoulders are shaking. Jocelyn and others are putting their arms around Tina for support. My heart really goes out to Tina right now. I honestly cannot believe the way Tina’s mom is treating her. When Tina was on the stand, she did not cut her mom down when she had every right to, and she actually said her mom was doing her best to raise her well. Chris seems to not care at all about Tina’s feelings. You can tell the jury and the courtroom feels for Tina. The reporters keep shaking their heads. Many people in the courtroom are weeping quietly.)

Chris: I liked Tina hanging out with the Willis family. I wanted Tina to see what a normal family looked like.

(So hanging out with a rapist is a good family example???)

Wayne: Tina did not want to go to Colorado.

Chris: (raising her voice) I am the adult! I wanted the best for my daughter!

(Wait…so you are the adult, you make the best choices for Tina…so you let a rapist back into your house 3 times…was that the “best” choice you made for your daughter?)

Chris: Tina loved Colorado! She did not want to come back home after she had the baby.

Wayne: Is it not true that Tina did not want to go back home because Dan Leaf had just been released from prison and was back at your house? Not to mention, Ernie Willis, the man who raped Tina, was still in church?

Chris: I sent Tina away! I sent her away! And she went to college, and graduated, and then got her master’s degree, and has 3 beautiful children, and a great husband. It is all because I sent her away!

(Wow. So now her mom is taking credit for all the good things that happened to Tina despite the fact that she was molested for 3 years by her stepfather, and raped by Ernie Willis. For Tina to be able to move on and finally have a normal life is all because of God’s grace working in Tina’s life, in spite of Dan, Chris and Ernie.)

(The jury is shaking their heads in disbelief. Chris is not helping Ernie at all. She is really actually helping Tina, because none of Chris’s story is making sense. The decisions and actions she took are not what normal, thinking people would do; and I do not mean that in a mean way. A normal, thinking person who cares for their family would not continually allow a rapist to be near their children. Chris kept bringing Dan back home).

Chris: I sent Tina away because she was mean to me. She hurt me. I needed help. The Kingsburys didn’t care about Tina.

Wayne: But you sent both Tina and Tom to the Kingsbury’s house many times.

It is 4pm, so the court is adjourned for the day. Tomorrow we will reconvene, and Chris Leaf will finish being on the stand.

*May 24, Tuesday, 10:42am, 2011

Wayne Coull, Tina’s attorney, is continuing to question Chris Leaf on the stand. 243 people are watching the case on the live feed blog.

Wayne: So DSF didn’t ever tell you and your children to keep away from Dan?

Chris: (no answer)

Chris: (in response to another question) Tina was not close to the Kingsbury’s. Tom knew where his sister was, when she left to go to Colorado. Ernie apologized. The Phelps’s were there. Linda and Chuck. Willis apologized for having sex with Tina. I have no recollection of when that was.

Tina was mean to me! She called me a “ditz.” She would physically restrain me because she thought it was funny. She yelled at me when I filed a report with the police.

Wayne: So you sent Tina away from her home, her friends, her family and her church, to live with complete strangers?

Chris: For a better life. I tend to move on with my life. The police never arrested Ernie Willis. I moved on. I was not upset. I also want to add that I turned my husband in to the police when we were in AZ.

Wayne: Here is a letter from, attributed to you.

Chris: Tina has asked for money! I gave her money for a house down payment. My daughter only wants revenge against me! She told me that she won’t be crossed, or else she’ll get even. This is about Ernie Willis, not me. Why is this all about me? Why are you questioning me? Why are you questioning me, my husband Dan, and Trinity Baptist Church? Why is this not about Ernie Willis?

Chris: I filed a report with the police. I figured that we were at the bottom of the totem pole. We are poor, Ernie is well-off. Why should the police arrest a good man like Ernie Willis?

*11am Donna Brown, Willis’ defense attorney is now questioning Chris Leaf.

Chris: I did not want my daughter in that kind of atmosphere. “Good Christians forgive and forget” is not what I believe. Because I went to school and have a B.S. in Criminal Justice, I knew what to do, so I called the police. I called the police when Tina told me that Dan had touched her. Tina did not press charges. Pastor Phelps was not involved in this every area of my life. I have my own mind! Phelps did not run my life. Phelps told me that Ernie, excuse me, Mr. Willis was going to report to the police. I want to live a quiet, peaceable life. I believe in telling the truth, not lies.

(Wayne Coull and Donna Brown are conferring with the judge).

Wayne Coull is back to questioning Chris Leaf.

Wayne: So you did not take Tina to the police before she left for Colorado?

Chris: I can’t force Tina to do anything.

Wayne: Except for forcing her to leave her friends and family to live with total strangers.

(Way to go, Wayne! Great comeback).

*Chris Leaf is done being on the stand. Tina was here yesterday when Chris was on the stand, but she waited downstairs this morning. Now Tina is back in the courtroom to hear her aunt, Mrs. Kingsbury, take the stand.

11:27am Mrs. Kingsbury takes the stand. Tina is her niece.

Mrs. Kingsbury: Years ago Chris had seen some bruises on the children, and her husband Dan was going to jail. She needed to get the children out of the house in AZ.

Mrs. Kingsbury: In 1997, we were told a deacon had gotten Tina pregnant. All I knew was that the man who had done it had several kids. I kept asking Chris to give me Tina’s address in Colorado, but she refused to give it to me. No one was supposed to know where Tina was at, not even her family.

(Two objections overruled.)

Now Donna Brown questions Mrs. Kingsbury.

Brown: So your family was estranged from Dan and Chris Leaf?

Mrs. Kingsbury: We weren’t estranged, we just didn’t agree with Chris for staying with Dan after all he had done to the kids.

*Matt Barnhart takes the stand

Matt: Tina babysat our kids, and we worked with kids in Awanas. Tina would look after my son Levi. (Matt explains what the church Awanas program is).

Wayne: What did the church people think of Mr. Willis?

(Objection, objection sustained).

Matt: In the service where Tina stood up, they called it “discipline” and used verses to back it up. I remember Tina reading a letter. It looked like she had gotten in trouble with her boyfriend, and gotten pregnant. We were led to believe that these were two separate instances. Willis was unfaithful to his wife, Tina had gotten pregnant with her boyfriend.

Wayne: About a year ago, did you happen upon a certain blog (IFB cult survivors)?

Matt: Yes, I found the blog, and posted on it… (objection).

(There were lots of objections by the Donna Brown during Matt’s testimony).

*Christine Barnhart, Matt’s wife, is on the stand.

Wayne: How did you know Tina Anderson?

Christine: Well, Tina was a social butterfly, so I just met her at church. She helped me in the nursery, watching the kids. I trusted her, and she would help me take care of my son.

Wayne: What was your reaction when Tina was made to stand up and confess?

Christine: I was mortified. There were about 500 people in the church auditorium. She was a scared little girl. After that night, I did not see Tina for another good 10 months.

*Dawn Fisher takes the stand

Dawn: Tina and I are the same age. We grew up together and went to school at Trinity Baptist Christian School.

Wayne: Were you taught at school and church that premarital sex is wrong?

Dawn: Yes, we were taught that. It was not pounded over our heads, but it was understood.

*Fran Earle is now on the stand.

(Just a side note, David Gibbs, the attorney for Chuck Phelps, I think, is sitting on the front row. He is sitting next to Fran’s husband, Jack. He told Jack that his wife is pretty. David Gibbs has been here since Monday. He also has his son here with him in the courtroom. His son looks like he’s 11 or 12 years old).

Fran: We were told it wasn’t our business to hear about Ernie Willis. Then Chuck said, “It is very unusual that we have two situations in one church night.” Tina stood alone, and read the letter. She stood up there all by herself. I did not know how this could even happen. Tina did not have a boyfriend. I was devastated. I felt so bad for her. We had no idea that these two situations were related. Ernie’s case and Tina’s case were mentioned separately. After the service, I called Linda Phelps and confronted her. I was blunt with her.

( Defense attorney objection. The judge looks over at Donna Brown and says, “Why are you objecting? This is a question being answered.” Brown sits down).

Fran: They used the word “discipline” to describe this service.

*Fran is done, and it is 1:30pm, we are taking a lunch break. After Lunch, Chuck Phelps will be on the stand.

Edited to clarify: Chuck Phelps' attorney is David C. Gibbs III


  1. It's really hard to read the exchange where Christine absolutely refuses to say that Tina was a good kid. Just really hard. I can't imagine having to grow up in a home with a mother like her.

  2. Sitting in the courtroom and witnessing Chris Leaf completely abdicate her soul and heart as a mother was one of the most difficult aspects of the trial. I cried gut wrenching sobs after we left court that day. The complete and utter selfishness of a woman that would take a convicted abuser back into her home and leave him with her children unsupervised--not after just one prison term, but THREE. Then she acted pitiful like she was being attacked by the prosecutor.

    You know the worst part? Chris Leaf, Dan Leaf and David Gibbs were staying at the same hotel as a group of supporters for Tina. On Monday morning, they all met together and talked in the breakfast area. They talked loudly enough to be overheard by some of my friends that morning. I wish we could have recorded that conversation for the jury.

    It is beyond sad to me. Disgusting. And yet on the stand Chris claimed credit for Tina's success as an adult woman, mom and wife.

    Tina is who she is because of the grace of God--completely in spite of how she was treated by Chris Leaf, Dan Leaf and Chuck and Linda Phelps. Fortunately for all of them, God will show them more mercy than they showed Tina.

    1. Laurie, David Gibbs came to Charleston, SC to defend Northside Baptist and its preacher, John Stevens, from allegations of misappropriation of funds, etc. Gibbs is the lowest of the low in my estimation. I was excommunicated from Northside along with my pregnant wife and father because we questioned what was going on with the finances...and, of course, there were guys in the church doing stuff to the kids and everyone in the IFB cult winked at it, Bob Jones III, the Greenville, SC preachers, the board members, and all of the IFB big wigs. That was back in 1991 before social media so it was easy for the big wigs to control the debate. Not so anymore...