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NH Church at Center of 1997 Teen Rape Case __ Current

NH Church at Center of 1997 Teen Rape Case __ Current

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Published by: fourbzboysmom on Sep 12, 2011
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NH church at center of 1997 teen rape case // Currenthttp://current.com/news/92457585_nh-church-at-center-of-1997-teen-rape-case.htm[6/28/2011 3:25:56 AM]
NEWS| MAY 28, 2010|0 COMMENTS
NH church at center of 1997 teen rape case
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By LYNNE TUOHY, Associated Press Writer Lynne Tuohy, Associated Press Writer – Thu May 27, 8:33 pm ETCONCORD, N.H. – Tina Anderson was a scared 15-year-old when she wassummoned by church leaders to stand before her congregation and apologize forgetting pregnant out of wedlock.Just minutes earlier in that evening service in 1997, a longtime church memberadmitted publicly that he had been unfaithful to his wife.Now, 13 years later, Ernie Willis is charged with raping Anderson, and police areinvestigating what church leaders knew about the assault and whether they shippedAnderson out of state to keep the matter quiet.When the pastor heard Anderson's allegations, he told her that if she had "lived inthe Old Testament," she would have been stoned to death for not reporting theattack sooner."He also said I had 'allowed myself to be put in a compromising situation,' Anderson
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NH church at center of 1997 teen rape case // Currenthttp://current.com/news/92457585_nh-church-at-center-of-1997-teen-rape-case.htm[6/28/2011 3:25:56 AM]
said. The pastor decided she needed to be "church-disciplined.""I was completely humiliated," Anderson said, her voice quavering at the memory. "Ihoped it was a nightmare I'd wake up from, and it wouldn't be true anymore."The Associated Press does not generally identify victims of sexual assault, butAnderson asked that her name be made public. Several witnesses to the churchservice involving Willis and Anderson recounted details to The Associated Press.Willis, 51, of Guilford, will be arraigned June 16 on sexual assault charges. He wasreleased on a $100,000 personal-recognizance bond after his arrest last week. Amessage left on a cell phone linked to him was not returned. A woman whoanswered the phone at a number listed to him said he no longer lived there. Courtdocuments do not list an attorney.Concord police also are weighing whether to bring obstruction-of-justice chargesagainst anyone who may have concealed the girl's location during the initialinvestigation, which authorities say they were forced to shelve when there was novictim to testify.After all these years, Anderson decided to come forward after she was contacted bya Concord police detective in February.She told police she started baby-sitting for Ernie and Tammie Willis' children whenshe was 14. When she was 15, Willis volunteered to teach her to drive after hermother refused to do so.During one of those driving sessions, she says, Willis pulled her into the back seat ina parking lot and assaulted her. The second attack occurred weeks later, when shesaid Willis came to her house, pushed her onto a couch and raped her again.Anderson said she realized several months later that she was pregnant, and hermother took her to the pastor at Trinity Baptist Church for counseling.This week, Pastor Chuck Phelps said he reported the accusation to police and childwelfare authorities within a day of his conversation with Anderson and her mother.He would not discuss the church discipline session or his role in relocating her toColorado to live with a family of another independent fundamentalist Baptistcongregation.Police refused to release any reports, citing the ongoing investigation.The current pastor of Trinity Baptist, Brian Fuller, sent an e-mail to congregationmembers Monday saying that Phelps reported the alleged crime to police Oct. 8,1997. Fuller said it was not until three weeks later that the girl, "by parental consentand pastoral counsel," moved to Colorado.Anderson's mother, Christine Leaf, when asked this week whether she consented tothe move to Colorado, refused to comment and hung up the phone.Fuller's e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by the AP from a former parishioner,contains two statements advising parishioners to remain silent.
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NH church at center of 1997 teen rape case // Currenthttp://current.com/news/92457585_nh-church-at-center-of-1997-teen-rape-case.htm[6/28/2011 3:25:56 AM]
"Instead of engaging in talk about this incident, I beg you to pray for all thoseimpacted by this crime," Fuller wrote. "I love you tenderly and am confident you willonly talk of these matters to our Lord in prayer."That's just the type of control Matt Barnhart said drove him away from the church.The Concord man said he and his family had been members of Trinity Baptist for justsix months when he witnessed Willis and Anderson's church discipline session."It was definitely, unequivocally put up as two separate incidents," Barnhart said. Ashis children grew, he said he saw the "high control" the church was exerting overtheir dress, music choices and conduct."We left because of Tina. It nagged me for years. They blamed her. They shippedher off," he said.Fundamental Baptist church leaders believe in the autonomy of each individualcongregation. The website of Trinity Baptist Church states that "on all matters ofmembership, policy, government, discipline and benevolence, the will of the localchurch is final."While in Colorado, Anderson said, she was home-schooled, had no contact withstudents her own age and was told by her pastors not to discuss what happened toher in New Hampshire.She placed her daughter, born in March 1998, up for adoption at Phelps' urging, witha family he had chosen.Anderson, now 28, was educated at a Baptist college and offered a job as a musicteacher at International Baptist College in Chandler, Ariz. She was married, themother of three other children, when a phone call out of the blue in early Februaryfilled her with dread. It was from Concord Detective Chris DeAngelis, saying helearned of her case through a Facebook page titled "Independent FundamentalistBaptist Cult Survivors.""I was kind of in shock, but I just answered his questions," Anderson said."Everything is changing because I'm seeing the things I was taught for so manyyears are not necessarily correct. It's almost like I had blinders on, believing all ofthis was my fault."Crystal Evans, a longtime friend and former classmate of Anderson's at TrinityBaptist, had joined the Facebook exchange and provided police with informationabout Anderson and her whereabouts.Evans, who now lives in Boston, said she left Trinity Baptist Church when she was18 because she found the atmosphere "very cold and controlling ... the men in thechurch all controlled the women." And she remembers her confusion aboutAnderson being sent away."I didn't understand why she was being punished," Evans said. "She was the victim."

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