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Ori gi nal l y publ i shed Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 5:22 PM
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NH church focus of 1997 teen churchgoer rape case
A New Hampshire man has been charged with the 1997 rape of a 15-year-old f ellow church member who became pregnant and
was relocated to Colorado by her strict religious order.
By LYNNETUOHY
Associated Press Writer
CONCORD, N.H. —
A New Hampshire man has been charged with the 1997 rape of a 15-year-old fellow church member who
became pregnant and was relocated to Colorado by her strict religious order.
The woman, now 28 and living in Arizona, detailed the alleged rapes in a statement to Concord police this
spring after friends urged her to come forward.
Police last week arrested Ernest Willis, 51, of Gilford and charged him with two counts of aggravated
felonious sexual assault and two counts of felonious sexual assault. At the time of the alleged assaults, he
and the girl were members of Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, a fundamentalist order.
Willis posted a $100,000 personal recognizance bond and is scheduled to appear in Concord District Court
June 16. His arrest was reported Tuesday by the Concord Monitor.
Willis could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The only Willis listed in Gilford said she did not know him.
The alleged victim told police she used to babysit for the Willis children and said Ernest Willis first raped her
when he was teaching her how to drive. The second rape occurred several months later at her home, she
said.
After she discovered she was pregnant, the girl and her mother met with then-Trinity Baptist Pastor Chuck
Phelps. In her statement to police, the girl said Phelps forbade her from returning to school and ordered that
she move into the Phelps home until they could arrange her relocation to Colorado to live with a Baptist
family.
"I did not want to go to Colorado to live with people who I didn't even know, and I made that very clear to both
Phelps and my mother," the woman told police.
Once in Colorado, she was home schooled, not allowed to have contact with anyone her age and instructed
never to discuss what happened in New Hampshire, the woman told police.
The woman said the pastor she lived with in Westminster, Colo., permitted her to choose which of the three
families he selected would adopt her daughter, who was born in March 1998. She said she did not meet the
family until several years after she gave up the baby and chose the child's parents based on answers to
surveys she sent to all three.
Phelps, who is now a pastor in Indianapolis, said Tuesday he reported what the teen told him to police and
child welfare officials within 24 hours. Phelps would not comment when asked about his role in relocating the
teen to a pastor's home in Colorado.
"I called in a report," Phelps said. "I think I've said what I need to say."
Concord Police Lt. Keith Mitchell said Tuesday the investigation is ongoing, and police would not release
documents in the case. He said an inability to locate the victim hampered the 1997 investigation.
"We're evaluating whether there is sufficient information for any obstruction (of justice) charges," Mitchell said.
"Her location was not disclosed. Without her, honestly, it's very difficult to investigate a case and nearly
impossible to prosecute the case."
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