Day Six of the Thomas Chantry Trial

By | August 2, 2018

Tom Chantry’s brother-in-law was kicked out of court today. It seems that standing up and yelling a correction to the State’s Attorney is not acceptable behavior in a Court of Law. Who knew?

Judge Astrowsky told him he could come back tomorrow and, if he were willing to act like a mature adult, he may allow him back in the courtroom. That was prior to the Judge receiving a note from an expert witness who said that, as she was leaving the courtroom the same man said: “quack, quack, quack” to her. Way to keep it classy!

Leading off the trial this morning was Christina Schopen, an expert witness who is a Dedicated Forensic Interviewer. Schopen has been specially trained in how to talk to victims of abuse. Her purpose in the courtroom was to provide the jurors with a brief informational overview of how abuse victims share their stories and why there is often a delay in them telling others about the abuse. I was fascinated with the information she shared. Schopen has published a book titled,  “When Your Child Discloses Sexual Abuse, A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents.”

The next witness was former Prescott Police Detective Jessica Belling (Barnard). Belling was assigned the Chantry case in July 2015. Of interest in her testimony was:

Pastor Marley of Miller Valley Baptist Church brought the “red binder” (records of the ARBCA three-man investigative committee), conducted in December 2000, into the Prescott Police. This report was very valuable because it provided the names of victims and details of events through interviews conducted and letters written to the committee.

Detective Belling asked Pastor Marley if he would be willing to conduct a “confrontational call” with Chantry. This is a call, recorded by the Police, where the individual attempts to get the suspect to say something incriminating. Pastor Marley, while willing to make the call, did not think it would be successful, therefore the call was never made.

Detective Belling also asked Victim 1 if he would be willing to conduct a confrontational call with Chantry. He was unwilling to do so.

The report Belling wrote of her interview of Victim 5 stated that he had been punched by Chantry in either the face or chest. Victim 5 had previously testified that he had never said he was punched in the chest, he always maintained that he had only said he was punched in the face. Belling admitted her report may have been inaccurate because the interview was not recorded and she may have confused the punch to the chest with another story.

During cross-examination, John Sears attempted to show that Detective Belling’s investigation was prejudiced against Chantry from the start and was not thorough.  For example, Belling did not interview the parents of the victims, never interviewed the three men on the ARBCA investigative panel and never interviewed former Miller Valley Baptist Church pastor Bob Selph. (Sears revealed here that it was Bob Selph who selected the three men who served on the ARBCA investigative committee and later revealed that the investigative committee was Selph’s idea.)

At this point, the court was recessed for lunch. At approximately 1:35 P.M. court resumed. Prior to the jurors entering the courtroom, Defense Attorney Sears entered into a discussion with Judge Astrowsky about allowing this recording to be played. Sears said the recording would demonstrate further evidence of the bias Detective Belling had against Chantry. He asked Judge Astrowsky to listen to the recording.  Judge Astrowsky asked how long the recording lasted. Prosecutor Eazer stated she had the audio on her computer and it was less than three minutes. (It was at this point that Chantry’s brother-in-law inserted himself into the proceedings – he stood up and yelled that the recording was 11 minutes. Judge Astrowsky immediately stopped the proceeding and told the man to leave the court.) The discussion then resumed and Sears ended up playing the audio in the courtroom by holding his phone up to a microphone.  After listening to the complete audio Judge Astrowsky said he didn’t see how the recording was relevant to the case. The conversation on the recording had taken place after the investigation was completed and the Grand Jury case was concluded.

Judge Astrowsky requested a copy of the recording, stating he wanted it admitted for the record. The jury came back into the courtroom at approximately 2:10 P.M. so the discussion about the audio recording had taken 35 minutes.

Defense Attorney Sears continued questioning Detective Belling, pointing out what he perceived to be shortcomings in her investigation. He brought up the fact that the Chantry case was Belling’s first investigation conducted since she had been promoted to a detective and he ended by asking her if she thought her work met professional standards. Belling responded, “I believe there were a lot of things I could have done better.”

In my opinion, Sears did a good job of exposing Detective Belling’s work as sub-standard. Could she have done better? Undoubtedly, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t change the fact that you have five credible witnesses who have all testified that they have been physically and/or sexually abused by Tom Chantry.

At approximately 2:30 P.M. the State called H.E. to the stand. H.E. is the mother of Victim 1.

My impression of H.E. is that she was a very credible witness. Her demeanor on the stand was great. She spoke strongly and confidently and while she never choked up when recounting her son’s sexual molestation by Tom Chantry, her anger towards Chantry was evident.

She mentioned that both she and her husband were mentored by Bob Selph and they loved him and still hold him in high regard. When she first learned her son had been abused by Chantry she felt sick and was “freaking out.” The first person she called was Bob Selph.

In July 2015, shortly after Victim 1 had returned from Bible camp and told her the story about being sexually abused,  she set up a meeting at her house. In attendance were her, her husband, her son (Victim 1), Pastor Dan Rydberg, Jeff Newman (an elder from Rydberg’s church and also a sheriff), Chris Marley Sr. and Chris Marley Jr. (Pastors from Miller Valley Baptist Church) and Howell and Owens (two elders from Miller Valley Baptist Church). At the end of the meeting Jeff Newman stated that Victim 1 needed to go to the Police with his story, Dan Rydberg needed to report the event to the police, and Miller Valley Baptist Church officials needed to take their ARBCA report from 2ooo into the Police.

This meeting and the subsequent reports to the Prescott Police are what started the criminal investigation of Tom Chantry.

Chantry’s church in Hales Corners, WI



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Law Prof

I’m a lawyer. Yes, Jana, some people are very confused about the legal justice system, they go about with all these myths, they never bother to learn about the real thing, probably because they just prefer ignorance–it’s the way they roll.

So long as one is not defaming another, they have every right to express their opinion about the guilt or innocence of an accused. The courts are set up so that jurors are supposed to only be empaneled if they can judge the case fairly, without undue preconceptions. But that has nothing to do with anyone else expressing their opinions. In my opinion, Chantry’s guilty, the evidence seems overwhelming. In my opinion, his cousin Mr. Altvater acts a great deal here as if he were possibly an enabler of this, or at least willfully blind to it. In my opinion, Altvater comes across like a supremely selfish human being, unempathetic to the pain of several (in my opinion) victims of his sadistic (in my opinion) cousin. I have every right to say that, there’s nothing in the law that prevents it or discourages it.

Thanks, Law Prof. In my experience, everyone knows that what you’ve said is true. Per Dee’s comment, the same people who claim that it’s wrong to have a personal opinion about Tom Chantry’s guilt, unless he’s convicted, will loudly proclaim that OJ Simpson is guilty even though a jury acquitted him of committimg two murders.

These folks know that there’s overwhelming evidence that Chantry is guilty. Therefore, they can only lob cheap, lame shots at fair-minded people by irrationally claiming that caring about facts is somehow unfair, in my view.”Why don’t we all just know that a great guy like Tom Chantry would never hurt a fly.”

My patience with that line of thinking is very thin, at this point.

Also, the legal justice systems in the United States exist to determine whether the state should impose civil or criminal penalties on individual citizens or corporate entities, to my knowledge. They don’t seek to control personal opinions.

A judge’s or jury’s opinion in this case should not be based on whether or not they personally think that Tom Chantry is guilty. Their job us determining whether there’s proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty of the charges against him.

That’s not the job of the average citizen who is not sitting on a jury. Our job is to legally and ethically protect children from serial predators and people enable them.

In my opinion, of course.

Also, I know there are some great comments coming in. I apologize for being slower about responding to any directed at me, this weekend.

This blog is getting 10s of thousands of hits a day. That’s never happened before, so Todd and I can get overwhelmed at times, as we both have other commitments. We’re awed that the blog is getting so much attention.

Thanks for understanding. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

Dee Parsons


You said “several commenters seem to be implying that people here do not have a right to believe that Tom Chantry is guilty unless he is convicted in a court of law.”

I wonder if these are the 5 people on the planet who actually believe that OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony are innocent?? 🙂

Ann Carpenter

James, it must be horrible to read and hear accusations of someone beating a child to the point of bruises , welts, pulling a child’s pants down , rubbing and possible doing all this for the adults pleasure . One can read about physical and sexual abuse almost daily on any given newspaper across this world . But “those” accused are people who don’t have faces, not related to us, know the same people we know, or have the same DNA that our children might have . Now , in your case, the “Face” IS someone you know . If you believe the Bible at all , believe what the Word says about you and have a true understanding of how much you need the gospel then what you are hearing a reading should not surprise you at all. The something “else at work here” that you are praying to be revealed has already been revealed . It is man’s need of a Savior to satisfy God’s wrath against a person that nothing good dwells . The circumstances and the position that your cousin placed himself in should have never happened. This legalistic practice of a mere person having the scriptural authority over God’s chosen people is nothing more than the working out of a theology of glory instead of the true theology of the Cross. The world sees this for what it is … a mere man , your cousin , who has a temper and is a very mean person riding on the coat tails of his daddy . I’m sorry for you James. It is very hard to know someone who can and will do acts of evil . In fact, stand in front of the mirror and you will see someone looking back at you that can also do and will do acts of evil . When we confess our sins , He is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse from unrighteousness. It is a a huge awakening to finally come to the Gospel and see who we really are . It was for me .”Nothing in my hand I bring only to the cross I cling .” No , there isn’t any thing spiritual going on here , no spiritual battles, no one out to attack a man of God ….just the chickens coming home to roost with evidence being presented that will be weighed and a judge will rule by the law if he is innocent or guilty . Sad sad day when an adult can spank a child that has been entrusted to them over petty issues.

I second everything Janna L Chan said to James Alvater.


Sounds like the 3 (or 11! Lol) minute recording was for damage control since it was after the Grand Jury. My question is why now? Was it recent? Or just come to light?

Dee Parsons


Awesome job!!!

Hi Todd and Janna,

Ps Sam Powell has posted about the Chanty case at his FB page and there are quite a few comments on his post. One of the commenters, Troy Vander Waal, has said:

“He [Tom Chantry] was my pastor years ago. Horrible guy. … I should say he never did anything heard of that would be illegal or anything close to what happened in AZ that I am aware of. He did have a bad temper, was not accurate and careful when he wrote book on the history of the “reformed baptist” movement in America (hurting the reputation of pastors without evidence) and did not visit a dying man who was in the hospital and then rehab for about 1.5 years.

“The premise of his book was that there were many reformed baptist pastors that had abused sheep (not sure if that is true or not …he didn’t provide evidence) and he wanted to expose those things. He was also calling for an association that had more authority to deal with abusive pastors. Obvious hypocrisy.

“I agreed with the premise of the book (oversight for elders and pastors) and was supportive until I read a section dealing with a situation with a pastor that had come to candidate to be our pastor in Milwaukee. Things did not go well with that candidate … (there were issues on both sides) … but Tom was not accurate when he spoke of the events hurting the reputation of this pastor.

“I contacted this pastor after the book came out and he was unaware that he was mentioned in the book. His memory matched mine on what really happened. This pastor sent an email to Tom to explain his side and i got a FURIOUS email from Tom … ‘now this man is mad at me too!!!!’ “

Thanks for the info, Barbara. By the way, I’m behind on responding to comments from a few days ago. I will get to them by this weekend.

Tom Chantry was obviously ill-suited to be a pastor. It sounds like his parents, friends, and other family members never held him accountable for his uncivil (I’m being diplomatic) and dishonest behavior.

I think that reflects poorly on their character and perhaps even their ministries.

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)


Thank you very much Janna!


It appears that, “This meeting and the subsequent reports to the Prescott Police are what started the criminal investigation of Tom Chantry.” is the end of reporting for Day Six. Is that where it ended? Were some men who were supposed to testify postponed? Thank you for your reporting. Hopefully it is a huge wake-up call to all of us.

Not sure if it will answer your question, but Todd is about to publish a document that he says may be shocking even by the standards of his coverage to date.

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)

Thank you for your interest and your support, Cheryl. Todd is about to publish a document, which is a primary source, that may answer a lot of your questions.

Stay tuned! Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)


Is it known if both versions of the reports written by the three man committee from ARBCA will be made public?

Hi, I see nothing preventing ARBCA from making them public. It seems to me that the reports were subpoenaed and may be available at the court house. Since they reference child abuse, they may be sealed from the public.

In my experience, many court houses make audio recordings and transcripts available to the public, by mail or in person, for free or for a reasonable price regarding audio recordings. Transcripts are often expensive. However, you can photocopy documents for 50 cents a page in Maryland, the state in which I have done a lot of research.

Much of the information pertaining to this trial is likely obtainable by the public.

You can contact the relevant court house here.

By the way, if you do get an audio recording, please don’t publish it publicly. Most court houses have strict rules against doing that.

Thanks. Janna L. Chan(blog team member)


Thank you Janna. So, if it was made available to the public, it wouldn’t be legal for anyone to publish it publicly (in either print or audio recording)? I don’t see ARBCA making it public. Would it be legal for them to do so because they are the source of the documents instead of the court? I wasn’t considering getting it myself but was wondering if it would at some point be available to view online like the other court documents that have already been posted online. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like that will be the case.

Yes, I see no reason why ARBCA can’t publish its own documents. I can understand why they don’t want to in this case.

Several excellent lawyers have told me that it is always okay to print publicly available legal documents. They laugh at me and say, “that’s why it’s called ‘public.’ ”

Okay, okay.?

If something in a file is sealed,that should be made obvious to you. In my experience it says, “DO NOT OPEN WITHOUT AUTHORIZATION,” or something equally non subtle. ?

It’s best to talk with the people at any given court house about these issues. When I ordered audio recordings in MD, the rule was that you could use them to make your own transcripts but could not publish the audio recordings themselves publicly.

In other words, don’t just throw them up on YouTube.

I just wanted to make people aware of that. Again, please talk to the folks at the court house about any questions pertaining to publishing legal documents in any format.

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)


Those do seem like pretty obvious clues 😉 I am nowhere near AZ. so I couldn’t make copies. I was thinking that maybe Todd would be getting copies if they are (or would be) available to the general public to use in one of his posts. If nothing becomes available online, then I might call the court house after the trial is over. Thank you!

Thanks, Todd will be getting some primary source documents. The court house may be able to mail stuff from files to you, yet that’s an involved, slow process.

If there’s anything else you’re interested in, feel free to put in a request.

Thanks. Janna L. Chan (blog team member)


Todd, Thank you for keeping a sense of humor – I think we all need a little levity at this point! Thank you most of all for your dedication and sacrifice of time and energy to do this (and, of course, for the exceptional reporting)! So important!! Keep shining the light!