Edit (7/27/2018) Hello Folks, I’ve removed a couple photos from this post, as that was deemed necessary for reasons we may or may not share. Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)
Day three of the Thomas Chantry trial began with Opening Arguments. The State’s Attorney, Susan Eazer led things off. She carefully laid out her case and spoke for about one hour. Defense Attorney John Sears followed and he spoke for about 40 minutes. I will attempt to briefly recap what both sides said. If you are triggered by graphic descriptions of sexual molestations you may not want to read this article.
The case is complex, there are five victims and numerous witnesses, therefore those unfamiliar with the case may find it difficult to follow all the details. Eazer attempted to simplify the case for the jurors by writing out a timeline on a piece of paper which was projected onto a screen. This timeline included dates, beginning in 1995 and ending in 2015. Eazer described in detail what happened to whom and when it happened.
I will return to this, but first, let me describe the tactics Defense Attorney John Sears will utilize in his defense of Tom Chantry. Sears plans on using a two-pronged defense. First, he will attempt to create doubt in the mind of the jurors regarding the accuracy of the testimony of the State’s witnesses based on their distorted memories of events which occurred around twenty years earlier. Sears stated that “memory goes to reasonable doubt” and jurors must believe that the prosecution has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Chantry is guilty of the counts he is charged with. Sears will call a memory expert as a witness who will explain how human memory works and discuss distorted memory and honest, but false memory. Sears stated that “we believe many, if not all of the alleged victims, in this case, had this distorted memory.”
Second, Sears will attempt to show that leaders in the Miller Valley Baptist Church did not like Chantry. In 2000 they were told by the members of the ARBCA three-man investigative committee that Chantry would never be a pastor again. Chantry moved to Washington and seemingly disappeared. Then, in 2015 Chantry emerged in Milwaukee as a pastor. He had written a book and was attempting to get his church into the ARBCA. Miller Valley Baptist Church leaders were angry about this and worked to prevent it from happening. Sears believes it was not just a coincidence that at this time criminal charges were brought against Chantry. He hopes to show it was a conspiracy, although he shied away from using that term because he is not a “conspiracy theorist.”
There is much I could write about today’s proceedings, but I will try to keep it short.
Susan Eazer described what happened to the victims that warranted the State charging Thomas Chantry with eight criminal counts.
Thomas Chantry became interim pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in June 1995. He replaced Robert Selph, a well-respected man and beloved pastor who had been there many years. Approximately one month later, during an annual July 4th celebration the church held, Thomas Chantry punched Victim 5, a ten-year-old child, in the jaw with a closed fist, knocking him to the ground. Chantry was reportedly not enjoying the festivities and was annoyed because he had been sprayed with water from a squirt gun. He announced that he would smack the next kid who got him wet. Victim 5 apparently never heard this warning and squirted Chantry resulting in Chantry carrying out his threat. Chantry then went into his parsonage and did not come back out. LJ, father of Victim 5, did not see the punch thrown, but he confronted Chantry when he learned what had happened. Chantry denied hitting Victim 5, saying he pushed him. The families forgave Chantry, put the incident behind them and continued to be friendly towards Chantry. They invited him over for meals many times and did whatever they could to make him feel welcome.
Thomas Chantry wrote a letter and took it to Mr. and Mrs. J, proposing he be allowed to tutor their son, Victim 2. He stated that Victim 2 seemed like a very intelligent child and Chantry would like to teach him the catechism. The Mr. and Mrs. J agreed and Victim 2 began attending these teaching sessions once or twice a week. The first session was insignificant, but beginning with the second session Chantry began spanking Victim 2. Susan Eazer stated, “these weren’t spankings, but beatings.” Chantry used his hand at times, and when he did it was unusually hard. He also used a hand-crafted paddle, a boat oar specifically crafted for the purpose, or a belt. Sometimes Victim 2 was forced to choose the instrument Chantry would use.
Here I should say that, according to Victim 2’s parents, he was a very compliant child and never had any behavior problems in school, church or home.
Chantry administered the spankings with Victim 2 either lying across his lap, bending over a table or bent over holding his ankles. WhenVictim 2 rubbed his bottom after one of the spankings Chantry stopped him from doing so stating that Victim 2 could not comfort himself, only Chantry could do that. Chantry would rub Matthew’s bottom then he would have Matthew sit on his lap and he would rub his genitals, initially through his clothing.
Catechism lessons were conducted with Victim 2 over Chantry’s knee. Every wrong answer, or answer not given quickly enough resulted in a spanking to Victim 2’s bottom. On one occasion Chantry volunteered to keep Victim 2 at his house overnight. Mr. and Mrs. J. were traveling to Phoenix and Chantry suggested he babysit so they didn’t have to rush home late that night. Additionally, Victim 2 had a catechism class the next morning, so it would be easier for all to have Chantry babysit. During this time Chantry told Victim 2 “he was being punished for sins not yet committed” and told him to drop his pants and underpants. Victim 2 then received the worst beating and fondling he had ever received.
At times Victim 2’s brother, Victim 5, was at the church when Victim 2was being “tutored.” Victim 5 sometimes heard the spankings and cries of Victim 2 emitting from Chantry’s office.
Victim 2 talked about the beatings, but never about being fondled. When Victim 2’s parents learned of the bare bottom spankings his father and elder Rich Howell confronted Chantry. Chantry said he spanked Victim 2, but never bare-bottomed. He said Victim 2 is making that up or dreamt it happened or, if it did occur, Chantry did it in his sleep.
In January of 1998, Chantry asked CL if he could tutor her son, DL. CL will testify to seeing deep purple bruises on DL’s buttocks and upper thighs. The bruises looked like he had been struck with a 2 X 4. She said DL had trouble walking.
In the summer of 1999, Chantry volunteered to tutor Victims 3 and 4. Chantry was not really interested in Victim 4, he preferred boys, although Victim 4 did receive one spanking for setting her soda on a desk without a coaster. Victim 4 did, however, witness many beatings of Victim 3.
In July 2015 Victim 1, now 18 years-old, came forward with a report of being molested by Chantry in the church. He doesn’t remember many of the details, but he knows his pants were pulled down and Chantry reached around from behind and fondled his penis for about 10 minutes. Chantry then told him not to tell anyone about this.
Of course, many more details came out in court, but this is enough for now. Testifying today were Victim 1, now twenty-one years old, and Mr. and Mrs. J, parents of Victims 2 and 5.
I will add that defense attorney John Sears did a good job challenging these witnesses on details of their memory. The witnesses difficulty in being sure of exact dates and places will undoubtedly play well into Sear’s plan to show distorted memories.
My parting thoughts:
At times it was hard listening to the testimony of Mr. and Mrs. J. The pain and grief they displayed because of what happened to their children at the hands of Thomas Chantry were very evident. They both said they wished they had done a better job of protecting their children; they wished they hadn’t placed so much trust in Chantry simply because he was a pastor; they wished they had listened/observed more closely to both verbal and non-verbal signs they had seen from Victim 2. If they knew then what they know now they would have reported Chantry to the Police. Their relationship with Victim 2 is strained, to put it mildly. Mrs. L, when asked by Susan Eazer if she had apologized to Victim 2, broke down and said through tears, yes, many times. They both expressed regret but stated as Christians forgiveness is part of life, extending grace is part of life.
Parents – be warned. Pedophiles know Christians are easy targets!
And for those of you who don’t follow my Twitter account, here is a picture of Judy Rodgers, sister of Tom Chantry. She has been attending the trial every day. After day one she took a photo of me from her car while I was talking with my friend in the parking lot of the courthouse. She is now apparently employed by the IRBS Seminary. This is the new Seminary established by the ARBCA in Texas because, apparently, nobody else gets Christianity just right!