Day Four of the Thomas Chantry Trial

By | April 29, 2019

“Taken in its entirety, the question must be raised, did Thomas Chantry use this method of punishment for his own pleasure?”
“Confidential Report and Recommendations of the Informal Council of the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America”
December 13, 2000 to December 16, 2000

“The repeated molestation of a child is a hideous evil perpetrated against personhood.  It is an assault on the core of God’s work in making us male and female.  It is violence done to the creation of God, for it silences, isolates, and renders the child helpless.”
Diane Langberg, PhD

Chantry Trial – Day 4
Friday, April 26, 2019

Testifying today:
Father of the victim
Mother of the victim
Female victim of felony assault by Chantry
Male victim of felony assault by Chantry

Prior to getting into the events of the day in court I wanted to share a court document which I came across in my research on this case. It appears that the Defense wants to keep the State from portraying Walter Chantry, the father of Thomas Chantry, as having selected the three man investigative council that ARBCA sent to Miller Valley Baptist Church in December, 2000 or that Walter Chantry improperly influenced those who made the selection.

It seems it has always been all about image for Walter Chantry. He did his best to keep a lid on the story of his abusive son – now a convicted felon – and he or his protege now appear to be doing what they can to keep his name from getting further negative exposure at his son’s second trial.

 

P1300CR201600966 – Chantry … by on Scribd

While I would agree that Walter Chantry did not make the selections, it would be hard to argue he had no influence on the selections. Whether the influence was improper would depend on the definition of improper. Bob Selph, the former pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church and in 2000 the ARBCA national Coordinator, was a close friend of Walter Chantry. We heard testimony today from the father of the victim that Bob Selph was formerly a member of Walter Chantry’s church in Pennsylvania and was mentored by Walter Chantry. Additionally, Mike McKnight, one of the three men selected for the council, was a member of Walter Chantry’s church. Bob Selph wrote the letter below after the first trial was over in 2018. You will note that Walter Chantry demanded that a council be sent to Miller Valley Baptist Church.

 

As you can see from Tom Chantry’s letter below, apparently written to the ARBCA Administrative Council,  Bob Selph contacted Tom Chantry to discuss possible names for the 3 man investigative committee. Then, according to Selph, the Administrative Council appointed the 3 man committee and both Tom Chantry and the MVBC elders agreed upon the selection.

 

Pictured below is a 2017 photo of Walter Chantry, the father of convicted felon Thomas Chantry. In the testimony today the father of the victim stated that Walter Chantry was “highly esteemed in ARBCA.” The mother of the victim testified that Walter Chantry was an icon and they were excited when they learned Walter Chantry’s son would be their new pastor.

 

 

After the three man investigative council finished their work in December, 2000, Walter Chantry was not happy with the result. It has been reported that he had a falling out with Mike McKnight and their relationship was cool from that time forward. Walter Chantry had already  written an angry letter to Miller Valley Baptist Church Elders Rich Howe and  Eric (Shorty) Owens expressing his displeasure with them (pages 2-4 of the document below). I think the fact that he boldly inserted himself into the matters of another church to protect his son was improper; based on that and the fact that he was the one who demanded a council be sent to MVBC, I think it safe to assume he likely inserted himself into the selection process as well.

Chantry Letter to Church-Wa… by on Scribd

The testimony of the father of the victim was much the same as his testimony at the first trial. His family frequently invited Tom for meals and their family movie night on Fridays and he considered Tom to be a good friend. Tom wrote them a letter proposing that he be allowed to tutor the victim because he was a gifted child and needed to be challenged. His son was not a discipline problem, spankings were infrequent and never with his pants down, that was offensive to him.

His son was an introvert, quiet and non-confrontational. When Tom Chantry asked if he could discipline his son he granted him permission, thinking that at most there may be one spanking.

The father of the victim said that at some point his son became reluctant to go to tutoring and would cry about it.  He said that his son had a sleepover at the parsonage during Christmas break and he learned a few weeks later that his son had been spanked aggressively, bare bottomed and for no apparent reason while at this sleepover. His son was upset and he was shocked. He and fellow Elder Rich Howe confronted  Chantry. Chantry denied the bare bottom spanking and said if he did it, it must have been in his sleep!

The net result of this confrontation was that tutoring at the church ceased, but Chantry was allowed to continue with the tutoring at the victims home while one of the parents was present. The tutoring finally ceased in May of 1996. The following school year the victim was homeschooled and then in February, 1997 their family moved down to Mesa.

In September, 2000 the father of the victim and his wife met with Tom Chantry for a meal and he revealed vaguely that he was having some problems at Miller Valley Baptist Church, adding that he may have used up all his grace there. Later they received an email from Chantry informing them that he would be resigning as the pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church.

The next day they received a phone call from Rich Howe and they learned there were three or four other kids who had been spanked by Chantry in a similar fashion that their son had been spanked.

In December, 2000 ARBCA sent the three man investigative council to Miller Valley Baptist Church. The victim and both his parents submitted letters outlining what had taken place in their lives. The father read the victims letter and learned things he had not known before. After the council had finished their investigation they did not tell the parents they could not go to the Police, but they reassured them that they would deal with the matter and were told Tom would never be a pastor again.

The father said “if we knew then what we know now we would have certainly gone to the Police.”

He said this matter has caused much strife in their family, adding that their son has expressed anger towards his parents for not protecting him.

The cross examination by Defense attorney Stevens was predictably much more contentious than the questioning conducted by Prosecutor Eazer. It is obvious the Defense is attempting to undermine the credibility of the witnesses by highlighting areas where their testimony differs from their testimony at the first trial.  (They never refer to the first trial as a trial, rather they refer to it as a hearing. They do not want the jury to know there was a prior trial in this matter.)

The defense is also using their testimony to at some point (I expect during closing arguments) contradict the testimony given by the victim. For example, the father of the victim was asked about how many times the victim had complained to him or his wife about being spanked by Chantry.  The father replied once or twice. The vicim has testified that he told his parents after every incident. This may plant  seeds of doubt in the minds of jurors.

The father also stated he had no memory of his son avoiding being around Chantry. His wife stated that after they had moved to Mesa she noticed her son did attempt to avoid Chantry. Occasionally Chantry would come down to their house  and her son would leave the room when Chantry came in.

Defense read from letters written by the victim and noted that not once did he mention he was molested.

In her redirect, Prosecutor Eazer did a good job of countering some of the issues Defense raised.  For example, in the case of the victim never mentioning the molestation in any of his letters Eazer asked the father whether it would be easy for his son to talk about the abuse? The father responded with an emphatic “NO!”

The jury members then had some good questions. One of them was, “Why would you give permission to a pastor to spank your son?”

The father responded, “Good question. We trusted him to do the right thing. it was a mistake.”

Another question was, “Did you trust the church council to do the right thing?”

The father responded, “Unfortunately, I did.”

Another question was, “Did you ever anticipate Chantry would spank your child like he did?”

The father responded, “No, and I had no point of reference to understand what was going on.”

 

The next witness called to the stand was the mother of the victim. There is nothing I can write that would sufficiently capture the depth of agony and pain this mother carries because of the savagery her son endured at the hands of a trusted “pastor.” His inhumane and unimaginable treatment of her young child crushed his soul and ripped the fabric of this family apart. And this is not the only MVBC family that has been devastated. There are at least three others.

Through tears and sobs she struggled to tell her story of the time she found her son in his bedroom with a blanket pulled over his head, crying because had to attend another “hellish” tutoring session later that day with the man he later called “a sick, twisted monster.” 

Can you imagine the guilt  this mother has silently suffered for not realizing what her ten-year-old son was trying to tell her?

She gave us a glimpse into her pain. She told us through sobs that she tries not to think of what her son went through, and every time she is forced to do so she stated that it “rips my heart out every time.”

She told the Defense attorney that, “For many years I tried to forget that I ever knew that man sitting next to you” (Tom Chantry).

When asked by the Prosecutor if she has ever seen her son as upset by anything as much as Tom Chantry, her simple but forceful reply was “No!”

The next two witnesses were a young lady followed by her brother. It is these two individuals that Chantry was convicted of assaulting in his first trial. They tell similar stories – both mentioned how they were terrified of their pastor. The also mentioned the trivial reasons they were beat for. The young lady said she was guilty of not putting her glass of water on a coaster. For this she was spanked so hard that it knocked the breath out of her. She has never been struck so hard in her life. The young man told of multiple brutal spankings he endured, some of them bare-bottomed, the pastor using his hand, a paddle or a small boat oar, after which the pastor would rub his butt. They were both forced to hug the pastor after he administered his dastardly “discipline.”

Their stories were also tear jerkers. The two of them, along with a third victim, spent a brutal summer with Chantry babysitting them. They said their friend received the worst of it.

They both said that Pastor Chantry “used God to keep them quiet.” They were warned not to mention their beatings to anyone or God would be displeased with them and they would not get into heaven. Of course at their young age they believed Chantry. They did tell their parents what Chantry was doing to them and their father went and talked to Chantry and assured his children the spankings would not happen anymore, but in fact they did, nothing changed.

 

MVBC Timeline of Chantry… by on Scribd

 

For further reading:

Sorry Evangelical Christians, It’s Time to Tell My Story

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