Day Seven of the Thomas Chantry Trial

By | August 8, 2018

Photo credit – Verde Valley News


I entered the courtroom about 8:55 A.M this morning and found Judge Astrowsky, Prosecuting Attorney Susan Eazer, and Defense Attorney John Sears engaged in a discussion concerning the upcoming testimony of C.L.  It was evident Sears was worried her testimony could do serious damage to Tom Chantry. If you want to see what worried Sears you can go here and read page three of the “Motion in Limine Regarding Pastor Lindblad.”

Judge Astrowsky ultimately ruled that C.L. could testify, but he had strict guidelines concerning what she could be questioned about.

The jurors were called in at 9:13 A.M. and the first order of business was to poll them to see if their schedules could be changed to allow for an unscheduled extra day of court on Friday the 10th. All the jurors said they could make it work so the day was added to the schedule. Court next week will now be in session on Wednesday-Friday.

The State called Rich Howe as a witness at 9:17 A.M. Howe attended Miller Valley Baptist Church for 27 or 28 years and was an Elder when Tom Chantry was the pastor at the church.

Howe discussed the July 4, 1995 incident where Tom Chantry punched 12-year-old Victim 5 in the face, knocking him to the ground. Chantry had only been at the church for a short time and was still in “interim” status. Rich Howe testified that he did not witness the actual punch to the face.

Susan Eazer asked Howe if there were concerns or discussions about Chantry’s behavior. Howe said there was, and they had talked to Tom, but at the end of the day, they decided to forgive Tom and move on.

When the father of Victim 2 (who was also an Elder) learned that Chantry had spanked his son bare-bottomed Howe reported there was significant concern. Both he and the father of Victim 2 confronted Chantry. The father of Victim 2 said bare-bottom spanking was not appropriate, but Chantry denied he had done this. Howe said that nobody in the church was told about the discussion he and the father of Victim 2 had with Tom Chantry.

Eric Owens (Shorty) replaced the father of Victim 2 as an Elder after he and his family moved.  Rich Howe and Eric Owens both were informed of Chantry bare-bottom spanking the son of C.L.  Howe and Owens confronted Chantry once again, and then on another occasion, Eric Owens and C.L. talked to Tom about the bare-bottom spanking of her son. Again Tom denied the charges.

At this point, the jury was dismissed. More discussion ensued concerning the same subject discussed the first thing this morning. Sears was striving to eliminate any discussion of the bare-bottom spankings of D.L,  Susan Eazer said these bare-bottom spankings go to the heart of the case. Eazer said that Chantry has been confronted three times about bare-bottom spankings administered to three different children and Chantry adamantly denied them all.

Somewhere in the middle of all this technical discussion about allowable evidence, there was what I considered a lighter moment. Judge Astrowsky told Susan Eazer she needed to stop rolling her eyes when Sears was talking. Eazer said she wasn’t aware she was doing it.

Judge Astrowsky said, “you are doing it, all the time.”

I never noticed this from my vantage point and I can see where it could unduly influence the jury, but to be honest, I completely understand the eye rolling and I bet the jurors do as well.

A few interesting things I learned from the Rich Howe testimony – his daughter is married to Bob Selph’s son, and the ARBCA called Miller Valley Baptist Church and asked if they wanted them to investigate the Chantry mess.

(Later in the day John Sears stated that the ARBCA three-man investigative committee was suggested by Bob Selph and Selph is the one who selected the three men to serve on the committee.)

Rich Howe testified that it was his impression that the ARBCA committee assured the MVBC that Chantry would not be a pastor again. Howe also said the ARBCA did not instruct him not to call the police and he regrets not having done so.

Howe further testified that he holds no grudges nor hatred of Tom Chantry although he hates his actions – what Tom did to the children. He stated that the ARBCA Council attempted to resolve the issue by having Tom repent and the church forgiving him.

Rich Howe then testified about the 2015 meeting regarding Victim 1’s revelation that Tom Chantry sexually molested him when he was 4. Howe believes he first heard about this event from Bob Selph. Victim 1’s mother had called Selph and Selph then called Howe.

Rich Howe and Eric Owen attended the meeting at Victim 1’s home in 2015. The outcome of the meeting was that it was clear a report needed to be made to the police and Victim 1’s family would be the ones to do it.

Howe said Chris Marley Jr. and Sr. had concerns about Chantry’s church in Wisconsin coming into the ARBCA. All the MVBC Elders discussed this. Howe said the conditions laid out in the 2000 ARBCA report for Tom’s restoration were that he would repent and apologize to each family. He said Tom did not ever do this.

In the Cross Examination Howe said Tom was angry and uncomfortable during the 4th of July celebration. He stated that Tom’s attitude was self-assured, prideful and not one to change.

One very good point Sears made was regarding the ordination of Chantry, which occurred in February of 1996. Sears has a certificate of ordination given to Tom Chantry at the church service. The certificate stated that Chantry had demonstrated a “consistency of life and testimony.” This certificate was signed by Howe and Eric Owens. Sears asked Howe how, in light of all the terrible things he alleged Tom had done, he could sign that certificate?

In my opinion, this was a very logical question. Clearly, Chantry should have never been ordained. He should have been removed one month into the job when he punched a 12-year-old in the face. There were plenty of other red flags along the way that were ignored or forgiven. Howe’s response was that they realized Tom wasn’t perfect and had areas he needed to grow in, after all, he was only 24, but Howe believed he could mentor him and Tom would grow.

I am going to summarize the rest of the day by just writing some thoughts I found interesting.

John Giarrizzo, pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Gilbert, AZ advised Tom that he needed to leave Miller Valley Baptist Church.

In 2015 the Marley’s (pastors at MVBC) attended the General Assembly to oppose Chantry’s bringing his church in Wisconsin into the ARBCA.

In 2016 Rich Howe left MVBC.

Rich Howe said Walter Chantry, whom he considered a friend, expressed a great deal of anger towards him and Eric Owens over the charges against Tom Chantry.

C.L. testified that Tom Chantry approached her about tutoring her son.

In September or October of 2000, C.L. picked her son up from the parsonage after a tutoring session with Chantry. Her son had been beaten so bad he could hardly walk. From the top of his buttocks to the bottom of his thighs were purple bruises, welts, and blisters. It looked like he had been struck by a 4-inch wide board. She felt sick and did not know what to do. She called Rich Howe. Rich Howe confronted Chantry. Chantry again denied bare-bottom spanking but did admit spanking the boy.

C.L. left the church shortly after the ARBCA investigation concluded. She regrets not having called the Police.

In a move which surprised me, Defense attorney Sears declined to cross examine C.L.

Eric Owens was the final witness for the day.

When Owens went to the parsonage to discuss the beating C.L.’s son received from Chantry, Chantry uttered his prophetic sentence of “I’ve done something from which I can’t recover. I’ve spanked some kids and I may have taken it too far.”

Owens said Tom left the church in November of 2000. He told no one, only leaving a note of resignation in the church office. Owens said he thought Chantry knew he would be facing discipline so he jumped ship. Chantry’s resignation took them all by surprise.

Owens said item 8 of the ARBCA outline of steps Tom needed to take had never been fulfilled. He then stated, totally unprompted, that “I believe Tom is not a Christian.” This ended the day.

After the jurors were dismissed Sears voiced concern to Judge Astrowsky about the last statement Owens had uttered.  While the Judge agreed he also stated that Sears did not object at the time it was said.

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