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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