Updated May 30, 2014 by Laurie Moody

Are the transcripts available for the trial?
Yes. All NH courts use AVTranz to provide transcripts. At first we were told the transcripts would be available after Ernie Willis' appeal was decided for about $75. Then we found out that the NH courts moved to using the AVTranz service. It is quite costly to obtain the entire transcript through this service. This blog provides trial notes taken by an attendee of the trial, and we also link to the live blogs from the Concord Monitor and WMUR. There was also considerable press during the trial which is linked on this page if you scroll down to the 2011 News Articles section.

How is Tina now?
Tina blogs about recovery, healing and hope as well as family life here: Glimpses of Hope. She is an amazing wife, mother and friend.

Does Tina know about this blog? 
Yes. Her husband, Tim Anderson, is "Tina's Marine" and he blogs here as well. Laurie checks all personal information posts with Tina before posting them. News stories or posts providing resources for survivors or churches are occasionally posted without checking with Tina first, but she has full access to delete anything she desires. Tina's voice was taken from her for far too long. Laurie does not attempt to speak for Tina.

Did Chuck Phelps ever apologize to Tina?
No. As of the last update of this page, three years after Ernie Willis was convicted on all counts including felonious forcible rape, Phelps still hosts documents on his personal web page (drchuckphelps.com) which claim Tina Anderson is not being honest and that her only goal is money. Chuck Phelps is now the senior pastor at Colonial Hills Baptist Church in Indianapolis, IN.

Questions Laurie Moody has answered elsewhere on the web:
After the trial of Ernie Willis was over, I spent many, many hours answering questions in several different places on the internet. Many pastors and other professing Christians had heard about Tina Anderson’s story in the 20/20 program on ABC with Elizabeth Vargas for the first time and then followed the news from the trial of Ernie Willis. Some showed a natural skepticism for whether or not the media had the details correct, and others just decided to stay loyal to their IFB contacts. In most cases, I was treated with kindness and respect. 

Out of concern for copying the words of others, I am only putting my own words here. They are all copied and pasted as originally written, typos included <cringe>. I wrote these posts giving my best effort to share information factually and unemotionally. If you want the full context of the question/answer, please follow the links to the original posts.

Laurie Moody

      1.    In answer to questions asked at SharperIron after the trial of Ernie Willis I wrote the following posts:

a.       Tue,05/31/2011 - 8:32pm 

I was at the trial and am open to accepting questions and/or giving observations if anyone posting here is interested. I have not seen anyone posting here that attended the trial. I offer this only in the interest of truth.

I attended Trinity from June 86 through June 93. My husband began attending in summer of 85 and was on staff from August 85 until we moved to another state in 1993. I posted some comments on Bob Bixby's blog and interacted with a few of you here: http://bobbixby.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/a-former-ifb-trinity-insider-comments/.  That post on Bixby's blog indicates how I knew Tina and her family.

I do have one matter where I would offer a correction. For Pat Payette: there were others at the trial from Trinity you would know. They likely also have observations they could share with you (Lon Siel, Michah Shaw, Peter Whitehouse). Peter was only there for the first half of Chuck Phelp's testimony, but Lon and Micah appeared to be there most of the time that whole week. I did speak to Peter by phone and ask for his impression of Chuck's testimony. I think you should hear it from him instead of second hand through me since you do not know me.

My observation was that Chuck Phelps was not answering the questions as asked by the prosecution. He frequently gave very long answers to yes/no questions without actually answering the question. Whatever frustration you picked up on from the WMUR live news feed or the Concord Monitor live blogging, wasn't that the prosecutor would not let Chuck Phelps answer--it was that he wasn't answering.

For instance, when the prosecutor asked if Linda Phelps asked Tina if she "liked" what Willis did, Chuck cried and said that was so out of character for his loving wife (still not answering the question). When the prosecutor asked if Chuck said Tina was lucky not to live in OT times when people were stoned, Chuck said we're all lucky not to be living in those times (again--not an answer).

Pat, you mentioned "disgruntled" former members in one of your posts on this topics. I asked the former members of Trinity at the trial to support Tina--easily a dozen or more--about you since you came after I left Trinity. None of them had anything at all unkind to say about you. I just wanted you to know that from my perspective, these people had a principled disagreement with Chuck Phelps and how he handled the situation between Tina and Willis. Several of them confronted Chuck and Linda one on one--to their faces--about the situation. By their own testimony, they were given the same answer. That answer is one that ended up coming out on the witness stand--Chuck and Linda were more concerned about the effects of the fallout on Willis and his family than he was on Tina.

Please do not misrepresent their concerns as those of disgruntled former members. They tried to approach the situation with Chuck and Linda back in 1997 and did not receive any kind of willingness at all to revisit the decisions made, nor were they permitted to know where Tina was or to communicate with her. There were very loving families that wanted to help Tina and they were not permitted to do so.

When Tina came back from CO in 1998, Sue Cappucci helped her with completing her homeschooling. Sue and her husband Jeff state that the details Tina gave Detective DeAngelis in the spring of 2010 when he called her, unsolicited, to ask if she would be willing to talk about what happened and cooperate with an investigation, were exactly the same as those Tina gave them back in 1998. Sue remembers vividly an essay Tina wrote back then telling the story of what happened.

I encourage you to get the transcript as soon as it is available. I plan to do so.

I have finally found time to read through all of the WMUR live feed comments. I did not see any substantial factual errors in them related to testimony. The only thing I noticed is that one of the comments asking about the teal color many of the supporters of Tina were wearing--the reporter said rape survivor instead of rape awareness. That said, there were two of us that answered the question: I said rape awareness, and other supporter that was herself a survivor of childhood rape answered rape survivor. That is a pretty small difference, but I note it here for full disclosure. I have not read the Concord Monitor live blog comments yet.

b.      Wed,06/01/2011 - 12:41am 

According to the Concord PD testimony during the trial (including cross-examination by the defense attorney), the incident was NOT reported as rape by Chuck Phelps. Detective Gagnon's testimony of his conversation with Chris Leaf was consistent with this also. According to his own testimony on the stand, Chuck believed Willis' later explanation that it was consensual, in spite of Willis' first statement that he was the aggressor. On the stand, Chuck said that Willis seemed to stand more to lose and so he believed Willis.

Also, according to the testimony of multiple witnesses, Tina was not asked if it was rape or if she consented.

I observed David Gibbs III talking with Chris and Dan Leaf in the Hampton Inn the morning Chris Leaf's testimony began. Another witness to their conversation took notes because Chris was speaking loudly and was easily overheard. Chris would not say on the stand that she refused to give info to the police, but by her own testimony, she stonewalled them. When you see her testimony in the transcript, I think you will find it startling and very disturbing. It confirms exactly what I said about my own experience and conversations with her on Bob Bixby's blog.

In his testimony on the stand, Detective Gagnon clearly stated that he got a report from DCYF, that the word rape was not used, that he then followed up with Chris Leaf. He said Chuck Phelps did not return his call.

Obviously this is a matter of Chuck Phelps saying the police did not call him back and Det. Gagnon saying he did call Chuck and got no response. With the word rape not being used and no cooperation, Gagnon tabled the investigation. Was that wrong? If Chuck Phelps did not believe by his own testimony it was forcible rape, then I am not so sure the majority of blame can fall to Det. Gagnon.

Pat Payette said earlier that the defense was not objecting--interrupting the flow of the prosecution's story. I don't know where you got that impression, Pat. Even the media in the room spoke of how unusual the frequent side bars with the attorneys were. The defense attorney that sat to Ernie's right side (not Brown) objected a lot. She had thick heels on her shoes and her steps up to the judge were very loud (old building). I don't know that Ernie will get an appeal based on bad defense attorneys.

Here's the crux of how the jury made the decision based on the law as the judge decided it. Which witnesses were most credible? No corroboration is required by NH state law since in a sexual assault, there are usually only two people present. However, in this case there was quite a bit of corroboration that Tina's story was consistent, save a lack of clear memory on timeline only.

Ernie's testimony (literally): I sensed she was open to my advances and asked her if she would like to go inside and participate in sexual intercourse with me. Ernie said Tina said yes to his question.

There was no testimony at all from Ernie for how he went from the person of power--the employer--to the person she wanted to have a sexual encounter with. The prosecutor kept at Ernie and his testimony remained the same (except that now he was claiming only one incident). The jury didn't believe that a 15 year old girl that looked like a little girl still, never wore tight clothing, but instead wore long dresses, skirts, and was taught that even holding hands was wrong (this testimony corroborated by other witnesses) just didn't believe that Ernie said "want to have sexual intercourse" and she said yes.

Since Chuck Phelps was not on trial, the jury did not have to decide if his actions obstructed justice. Those who were in the courtroom and those who read the testimony can decide that for themselves.

c.       Wed,06/01/2011 - 12:37am 

the defense would have been the beneficiary if Chuck Phelps' notes had been excluded from evidence because of privilege. The defense position from opening arguments to closing was that Tina's memory changed because of how she was treated by the church and her prior abuse from her stepfather. From an observer's position inside the courtroom, it appeared that there was a lot more activity from the defense AFTER Chuck's notes were admitted and he said Ernie's first admission was that he was the aggressor. I could be wrong because the defense didn't say it in open court, but from opening statements, cross examination and other statements, it appeared the defense expected Chuck to be more helpful to Ernie's defense.

I addressed the belief that the defense didn't do much objecting in my post above. The live blogs just didn't report it all. We did a lot of sitting and waiting inside the courtroom on the objections and requests to approach the judge. There were also several hearings outside the presence of the jury. Those of us that came in support of Tina were instructed by the prosecutor not to text, e-mail or post any specific exchanges from the courtroom until after the verdict so we did not risk causing a mistrial.

d.      Wed,06/01/2011 - 10:29am  

The jury did not deem it otherwise--it found him guilty of both statutory and forcible rape. It's a little complicated because Willis did plead to the one charge where there was DNA. The jury also convicted on a fifth alternative charge.

The officer in question has retired, so I am guessing there won't be an official investigation for fault on the PD end. I guess what you're missing is the whole conclusion of the trial testimony itself. The officer had a mom who would not cooperate, insisting that the daughter did not want to be contacted (not true, the daughter would have spoken with the police if the mom had given her contact info) and he said under oath that he responded to the DCYF referral by attempting to contact Chuck Phelps and that Phelps did not return his call. The mom, under oath on the stand, stonewalled the prosecutor to even admit her daughter was 15 for a portion of the summer. She kept insisting she was 16--correcting the prosecutor. It was painful to watch.

A report was not filed with the police. If Chuck made the call as he asserts, he would have been given information for how to file a report. He did not file a report. This was made clear at trial.

Chris Leaf (the mom) kept asserting on the stand that the officer knew where to find her because he had contact with her through her husband's child sexual assault conviction. But she resisted answering prosecution questions, giving combative answers. For instance, when asked if she told the police where her daughter was, her answer was "they didn't ask." It took many, many questions for the prosecutor to get her to reveal that for any question she was asked, she just kept saying her daughter didn't want to talk to police.

As someone that sat through the trial, I would actually say the mother bears the most responsibility for obstruction. That is my opinion after hours and hours of testimony over the course of a week.

That said, I also sat there stunned and grieved to hear that my former boss and pastor did so little to protect the young girls in the congregation after Willis said more than once that he was the aggressor. Since there was testimony indicating Willis' movement and activity in the church was not restricted and a clear open message about what really happened was not given to the congregation, I am glad I was not a parent with young daughters attending Trinity at the time.

e.       Wed,06/01/2011 - 10:41am  

[Re whether or not Chuck Phelps’ opinion of the situation mattered because statutory rape was illegal]

Except that in this case, his opinion influenced his action/lack of action, and that *was* evidence at the trial.

[Re did Chuck Phelps meet legal reporting requirement]

Except that if he made the call as he asserts, he was told he would need to file a written report which he did not do. Since there is no recording of the call and the law was clear at the time, if he shifts blame to the police for not sending him a paper, it was still a responsibility he knew he had, by his own testimony.

[Re value of people getting trained about abuse issues, reporting, etc]

Agreed. http://www.netgrace.org offers such training and resources. Liberty University is one of only three law schools that offers specific training to law students on the complexities of dealing with child sexual assault. G.R.A.C.E. is housed on their campus.

The purpose of Chuck Phelps testimony was to give supporting evidence for why Tina did not come forward sooner than when the police contacted her in the spring of 2010. Once the transcripts are released, everyone will have a clearer picture of why the prosecution asked what it did.

f.       Wed,06/01/2011 - 10:52am    

I thought I had read all the discussions about this issue, but I don't remember seeing an accusation that Chuck Phelps acted with malice.

Based only on the testimony at trial I can say that no such accusation could be made with merit. Chuck testified that he did what he did because:
1. he believed Ernie
2. he thought Ernie's family was more at risk from fallout than Tina
*there is at least one other reason that came out in discovery but did not end up getting made public at trial. It could have been a part of a rebuttal witness testimony but was deemed not needed for the case by the prosecution. Two witnesses that confronted Chuck Phelps after the church discipline/confession/compassion session both said they were told that Tina was young and would be able to get over it. Ernie had a family that needed to be protected. This does not meet the legal or moral standard of malice.

Based only on the testimony at trial I can also say that the accusation that Chuck did what he did out of ignorance is also without merit. Chuck simply believed he was doing the best thing. He knew he was supposed to file a written report and he did not do it.

Chuck has said on his own website he would not have a young girl come before the congregation like that now. It seems that if that is the case, he should have had no problem apologizing to Tina for at least that one thing alone.

g.      Wed,06/01/2011 - 10:57am  

you are correct according to the testimony and documents placed in evidence at the trial. She was 15 when raped and 16 when she gave birth.

On the witness stand, Chuck did testify to one call. The Concord Police do not have a record of the call. However, at the time (and still to this day), a call is not enough to report. A written report is required. Chuck said he was told papers for him to fill out would be sent but he did not get them. By his testimony he knew he was supposed to fill out a written report and he did not do it. Concord Police also testified that a written report was never made.

h.      Wed,06/01/2011 - 11:08am 

I apologize if I offended Greg. What I meant was your question focused on Chuck alone and what he did and did the police bear more blame for the resolution of this case many years ago. Chuck's less than aggressive pursuit of action alone is not the only factor to judge police action/lack of action. I meant to say that the entirety of testimony--especially Chris Leaf's adds to the big picture for the decision of the detective to table the investigation.

I'm not in any way shape or form attempting to even suggest that Chuck is lying about making a call. I'm trying to be very specific with my words--only focusing on what was given as testimony. I do not personally doubt that he made a call, but what I am trying to add here to the discussion is not my personal opinion. At least I *think* I'm mostly accomplishing that. I'm trying to focus on testimony because I was there at the trial.

Does that make sense? I hope that is understandable. Communicating with gaps in responses via written response creates challenges. I think this would sound different if we were in a big room together.

i.        Wed, 06/01/2011 - 4:09pm 

[Re did police try to follow up but quit investigation because the victim could not be located]

Sorry! I missed this last part. The testimony given by Det. Gagnon said he was following up on a referral from DCYF, which is why he called Chris Leaf (Tina's mom) and Chuck Phelps. He did not state Chuck made the call or dispute it. As I understood the testimony, Chuck said he made a call, which was not disputed. There is no record of a call but it is not disputed. Does that make sense? I'm trying to stick only to what was said in court. Gagnon said that Chuck Phelps did not return his call. I will have to defer to the transcript for how many times Gagnon said he attempted to call Chuck. i think I remember this question being asked, but I am not sure.

The detective said the matter was dropped because he could not locate the victim. Chuck and Chris were both asked if they notified police that Tina would be moved to another state during their testimony. Chuck said no (paraphrased--it was a longer answer), and Chris gave a non-answer "they didn't ask."

j.        Wed, 06/01/2011 - 4:35pm 

[Re who wanted Chuck Phelps’ notes excluded at trial]

I'm not entirely sure who was in the chambers with the judge when this was addressed. I will give you my understanding based on what I saw/heard in the courtroom.

David Gibbs III was there with his son (guessing 10/11/12 years old). Gibbs talked with Phelps during a couple of the breaks while Phelps was still on the stand. Based on his presence in the courtroom until Phelps was done testifying and what I overheard at one point, I believe Gibbs was acting as Phelps' attorney. I don't know if that was on his own--or under the auspices of the CLA.

Chuck said on the stand that Brian Fuller released his notes to the Concord Police without his permission. He emphasized this point with some strength. He did not want his notes to be public for the trial. When the judge came back from considering everything and made his ruling, he spoke directly to Chuck on the stand and said something along the lines of: I know you were concerned about saying what was in your notes. The court is compelling you to answer the questions from the court.

I got the impression that Gibbs spoke on his behalf to say his notes should be privileged, simply because he was clearly there to protect Phelps' interest/concerns, but I am not at all sure that is the case. The only one I know to ask is Wayne Coull (prosecutor) and I am not sure I have standing to even ask that.

The defense did not want Chuck's notes to be released.

The basic parts of the ruling were that privilege was ignored when Phelps sent the notes to Fuller and also Chuck's website (drchuckphelps.com) had released information contained within the notes. The website was a matter of lengthy discussion during that part of the hearing. The jury was out of the room for that part until the ruling was made by the judge.

The judge will be issuing that ruling in writing and I assume it will be a part of the public record for the case. Nothing has been sealed.

I don't know if this answer helps or not. I'm not trying to be indirect, but I know my initial answer would have been -- both tried to keep the notes out. But as I thought about it, that was based on courtroom impressions and what the judge said during his ruling. I really don't know who argued what outside the courtroom. There were several hearings outside the presence of the jury but in the courtroom and several more outside the courtroom altogether.

k.      Wed,06/01/2011 - 4:53pm  

[Re was Chuck Phelps negligent to not file written report]

I'm really trying to avoid giving opinion here. I think it is probably obvious that I must have felt strongly enough about supporting Tina to drive 16 hours to NH to be there for/with her at the trial. I babysat her--I knew her from the time she was just a little thing--2 or 3 years old. I said on Bob Bixby's blog that there were other things I could have said that revealed Chris Leaf's mindset and way of doing things, but I just didn't think it would be appropriate to say more than I did. Now that everything is over, I can say that Sue Cappucci (a witness during the trial) was the one that called to tell me about the church discipline/confession/compassion session the night it took place. She knew of my care for both Tina and Tom. After Tina spoke with the police last spring, she, Tom and I reconnected through facebook. Everything Tina told me is exactly what Sue told me from both the 1997 church incident, what her sister Sarah told her, what she said to Chuck and Linda afterwards, their responses, and what Tina wrote in an essay that Sue graded in 1998 once Tina returned to NH. My own experiences at Trinity Baptist Concord, while a member led me to find everything within the full realm of believability. Also, I grew up in a Hyles' style IFB church. Nothing that was done or said as a part of this whole situation surprised me. I had witnessed other public church discipline/confession/compassion meetings exactly like the one Tina described and others gave testimony about at Trinity while a member and at every other church I attended within fundamentalism.

I had always heard such services referred to as church discipline. Other witnesses did as well, but one of them said he thought of it as a "confession" session because no one was voted off church membership during that meeting. On the witness stand, Chuck referred to it as a chance to show compassion--neither discipline or confession. Given that the note Tina was helped to write by a church leader at the time, included terms such as asking forgiveness from God and the church, I don't think anyone really believed that the purpose of the meeting was to offer compassion since a child was obviously going to be born.

l.        Wed, 06/01/2011 - 5:05pm 

I did have that in my notes about Lt. Cross, but didn't mention it here because I didn't know who it was. I did not remember that name as coming from Chuck's notes. I just want to reiterate that I'm trying to stay focused only on what I remember from court. My niece is transcribing her notes--probably 20 handwritten pages. I have some notes too. My main purpose in being there was to give physical/emotional/spiritual support to Tina. It was easier to leave most of the note taking to others.

Leah, you asked about the transcript. Sue Cappucci plans to get a copy as soon as they are available. I will scan them and publish them online. Even though tone cannot be discernible from the written transcript, it is still the best record of what was said in the courtroom.

There was a very long interview recording played during the trial--the defense fought its admission very strongly. That was the recording of the interview between Det. DeAngelis and Ernie Willis when he was first called in for questioning in 2010. I do not know if the recording will be transcribed for the record or not (in the transcripts).

If it is possible to get an audio recording, it might be worth it for some of you. Then you can try to ascertain tone.

[Question asked if Chuck Phelps tried to communicate with Tina at the trial.]

I can answer this question with an unequivocal no. I was with her the entire time Chuck Phelps was on the stand. He did not approach her, speak to her or even make eye contact with her.

n.      Wed,06/01/2011 - 11:35pm    

[Re if police asked the age of Tina Anderson when Chuck Phelps called to report]

this was not addressed at trial. I think the best explanation is a consideration of all the testimony together: Phelps, Leaf and Gagnon, that I discussed here: http://sharperiron.org/comment/30507#comment-30507 

I've read that some have wondered the same thing as you because at drchuckphelps.com the age given was 16. Given what was said at trial, I am doubtful it is true. Given Gagnon's own testimony, he seemed pretty clear that he tabled it due to lack of information about Tina's whereabouts.

      2.    In response to a post Bob Bixby wrote on his blog, I wrote a long post about my knowledge of Tina Anderson, her mom & brother, and also Trinity Baptist Church based on my personal experiences. Bob ended up turning my comment into a main post and there was a lot of discussion following it. 

I have some insight on the situation from my own time at Trinity Baptist Church and also my involvement with Tina and Tom and their mother, Chris. I first met Tina and Tom while on a visit to Glendale AZ where my dad was stationed at Luke AFB. My family attended the same IFB church as Chris and the two children. My mom was a teacher at the Christian School and had both of the children at one time or another. The name of the church has changed since then in the aftermath of the pastor’s (James Colyn) conviction for child sexual assault. He is a registered sex offender in TN the last time I checked.

My mom knew Chris and spent more time with her than I did. I was a college student at BJU at the time and only home for Christmas and other breaks. Chris was married to Daniel Leaf–not the father of the two children. During the time that they were in AZ, Dan was arrested and convicted for child abuse. You can find his criminal record here: http://www4.egov.nh.gov/nsor/Display.aspx?offenderID=2522.

I became reacquainted with Chris while Daniel was in prison in AZ. She moved with Tina and Tom to NH to be near her family. By this time I was married and attending Trinity Baptist Church. I helped Chris a lot during the time Dan was imprisoned. I helped her clean her apartment, wash laundry, and also babysat the children for free. I first offered to take care of them when I observed their current babysitter (someone who lived near me) was using physical correction of them that I thought was harsh and inappropriate. I told Chris about the situation and offered to help. Knowing what I did from my own interaction with Chris and Daniel in AZ and my mom’s observations, Tina and Tom needed someone to provide security and love for them.

When Daniel was nearing the time to be released from prison, I spent quite a bit of time helping Chris get her apartment in order. I had several lengthy conversations with her about Daniel coming back and whether or not he could be trusted alone with the children. I wanted her to have a safety plan and asked her to promise me that she would not allow him to injure them again. Obviously I did not have the power to enforce such a decision, but Chris knew that I was volunteering with DCYS in a parenting/mentoring program and that I was a mandatory reporter if I ever observed any signs of abuse.

(I’m giving this detail for full disclosure lest someone from Trinity Concord give it in an effort to discredit me) In the summer of 1991, while I was in Maine visiting a friend, I went to a movie with her and another friend and also had a wine cooler. I knew that was in violation of my terms of employment as a part time teacher at Trinity Christian School, but made the choice to participate anyway. The pastor in Maine at the time, Dave Pennington, found out and told me he would tell Chuck Phelps if I did not. So, upon my return to Concord, I told Chuck and he accepted my resignation from the school. I remained active at the church and spent a short time in counseling with Linda Phelps and my husband remained on staff at the Christian school.

It was after this point that I saw Tina and Tom less often since I wasn’t employed at the school anymore, but I did see them at church, and continued my friendship with Chris. As best as I could tell when I saw them, I did not see bruises, but I always saw them fully clothed. Chris would not answer my specific questions about whether or not Daniel ever hit Tina and Tom, but would just tell me everything was okay. I made a good faith effort to keep an eye on their welfare.

In the summer of 1993, my husband and I moved to another state for him to begin work on his doctorate. Just before that move, Daniel was arrested and convicted of a felonious sexual assault of a young girl (6 years old if memory serves me correctly) at a McDonald’s restaurant. As you can see from his sexual offender record linked above, he has several other convictions. At one point Daniel was also investigated by DCYS for child abuse because of extensive bruising. The children their injuries were from a belt with metal eyelets/rivets in it.

Fast forward to the fall of 1997. A friend at Trinity with whom I remained in contact, called to tell me that Tina had been brought before the church for discipline (there were several calls over a span of a few days–the first one came the Sunday night of the church discipline). I use the words church discipline because they are the words my friend used, and the scenario was familiar to me because of similar sessions I had witness while at Trinity.

This friend’s sister was a neighbor to Chris and Tina and Tina had told that neighbor that Ernie Willis had raped her. It wasn’t until after the church discipline that my friend realized the church was going to take an action with which she disagreed (sending Tina away and keeping Willis in apparent good standing). Because of my earlier connection with Chris, Tina and Tom, I wanted to make contact with the family and offer to help rather than Tina being sent away to the home of strangers. My friend could not get anyone to tell her where Tina was taken and I was never able to establish contact with Tina until years later after the police located her.

I’ve read numerous comments from people that are using Chris as a bolster for Chuck Phelps’ testimony. I am sad to point out the obvious since her children still love her, but Chris has on multiple occasions brought a convicted abuser of her own children (not Daniel’s–he was the stepfather) back into her home. In addition to that, she knowingly brought a convicted child sexual offender back into her home and allowed him to be in unsupervised contact with her children. That is not the decision of a loving, godly woman. Chris selfishly chose her own satisfaction over her own children’s welfare. How does that make her a reliable witness in this situation?

Tina and Tom both thrived on the attention they received in our home. They clearly showed signs of a need for positive attention, affection and a father figure. I mentioned that I washed laundry often. I offered to do that because the children’s clothing often smelled. It pains me to have to speak in this way, but in spite of my own failing the summer of 1991 that caused me to resign from teaching at the school, I had always been a member in good standing at Trinity. I loved Tina and Tom. I kept the dress code Trinity required, followed the music guidelines established in Kurt Woetzel’s class, sang in the choir, helped in a myriad of ministries. I was the model Christian School teacher’s wife.

I’m not perfect by any means, but Chris abdicated her own responsibility as a mother to provide a safe environment for her children. She expressed to me on more than one occasion that she wanted Daniel back because she “needed” him and for other reasons that do not seem appropriate for me to repeat. But clearly–by the simple fact she kept bringing him back into her home, she was not putting the needs of her children first.

By Tina’s own testimony, Ernie Willis had become a confidante of sorts –someone she trusted and confided in about the abuse she endured at the hands of her stepfather. I saw Tina several times upon our return trips to NH to visit with my husband’s family. She was a sweet, kind girl–thoughtful, quick to give me a hug when she saw me, excited to see our new baby the year he was born. She wasn’t a seductive temptress. She wore the standard modest jumpers, and really, seemed like a late “bloomer” in my opinion.

By her own account, Ernie forced himself when she said no. That is rape. Before I saw the 20/20 show, I had a conversation with a woman with whom I am very close. She said to me of her own abuse, “I just wanted to forget it. I mean–surely it didn’t really happen? Maybe I imagined it.” Those are very similar words to the ones Tina used in recounting her own experience.

It was not Chuck Phelps’s role to investigate and figure out whether or not Tina was telling the truth. Why did he allow Ernie to confess to adultery in front of the church? Phelps has not disputed that fact. The church members on the 20/20 show all agree what his “charge” was. If Phelps really believed and reported it as rape, then why did he not take Ernie to the police station? Those of you that are fathers and pastors–would you have such a man sitting in your congregation around other young girls? Would you allow two phone calls to be enough action on your part?

I cannot help but ask those questions. It seems reasonable to conclude that at that time, Chuck believed what he is saying now–that the sex was consensual and not rape. Again–it was not his role to decide that back in 1997, but his action allowing Ernie to remain in the church, knowing he was not arrested, certainly seems like he was all too willing to assign guilt to Tina.

I’m writing about what I know from my own relationship with Chris, Tina and Tom because the things I am saying are just not out there anywhere I can see — at least where pastors and fundamentalists are reading. This for me and my husband goes well beyond “taking sides” to confessing sin. I failed by not creating a big stink over this after I got a call from my friend telling me Tina was sent away. I should have called the police myself. My answer at the time to my husband was “what can I do?” I was an adult, and I should have tried harder.

I am not in a fundamentalist church today, because the continual stress of external “standards” and a rules based church instead of a church where the gospel message –freedom in Christ was preached–finally led my husband and I to make a change. My own family has been touched by sexual assault and child abuse in every single fundamentalist church we attended. Sadly, it was covered up at each one. In spite of that, and all of my siblings and I treasure a deep and abiding relationship with God today. We’ve all taken different journeys in our own healing, but we are whole and happy in our families, all serving God in different ways.

I guess that last paragraph was for full disclosure too. I’m not holding anything back. I may not meet your standards for a “good witness.” I am just appealing to you all to please think about whether or not Tina may read what you say. David Doran, you may not remember me from all those years ago at BJU, but I want to thank you for interjecting what feels like a voice of reason over at Sharper Iron. I have been truly grieved by what I’ve read there. I just can’t help but think that if it had been a different girl–the daughter of a leader in the fundamentalist movement–that maybe this would be treated differently. But you know–if that were the case, she would not have been a perfect victim to be groomed by a pedophile for rape. If the church in question were anything other than a big church in the movement (I was there–I know how much of a leader Trinity is in New England with the Leadership Conference and other things like the NEACS), say–someone other than Chuck Phelps–would this be handled differently?

God will get the honor and glory due to His name because He is God. He doesn’t need ABC to promote Him and His purposes cannot be thwarted by ABC. The power of the Gospel message cannot be hindered by the sin of men. If that were the case, the Gospel would have perished long ago. He uses imperfect people all the time to accomplish His plans. As believers though, we can choose to allow this 20/20 episode to push us to embrace truth. It can push us to confess, repent, and restore while making restitution. If Chuck says in his statement, that he wouldn’t have a young girl come before the body like that now, then why not simply apologize?

I think we all have to accept responsibility in these matters so such a thing never happens again. Fortunately, and for our own comfort, Tina says now, “We made it through and God is good.” Doesn’t it say something that ABC ended the broadcast with that statement?

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