Day Five of the Thomas Chantry Trial

By | May 1, 2019

“It is still incomprehensible to us as to how these actions by Tom were justified. Legally, what Tom did would be considered child abuse and could be subject to prosecution. We hope someday to get answers. It is still a great concern of ours that Tom does not fully understand the gravity of this matter.”

Letter to Walter Chantry, November 21, 2000
from Miller Valley Baptist Church Elders Rich Howe and Eric Owens

“We were returning him to his full duties and responsibilities as Pastor effective the following Sunday.”

Letter to Walter Chantry, November 21, 2000
from Miller Valley Baptist Church Elders Rich Howe and Eric Owens

“Religion has the capacity to silence critical thinking and create blindness in entire groups of people. It can infect the minds of followers so completely as to allow the most egregious sexual acts against children and others to go unchallenged for centuries.”

-Darrel Ray


Chantry Trial – Day 5
Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Testifying today:
Rich Howe – former Elder at Miller Valley Baptist Church
Eric Owens – Elder at Miller Valley Baptist Church
CL – mother of boy victimized by Chantry
Jessica Bellings (formerly Barnard)  former Detective, Prescott Police Department

Today was not a banner day for the prosecution.

Anyone who has been following my blog knows I don’t write as a journalist would for a newspaper, that is to say, I do not pretend to be unbiased. While I always attempt to be factual and honest, I write to support victims of abuse and expose corrupt pastors. At the end of the day I desire truth and justice to prevail. That being said, I feel I need to take some of  the witnesses from today to task for what I perceive to be either laziness or complacency as it relates to their preparation (or lack thereof) for their testimony in this trial. Others I will take issue with for what I perceive to be a troubling lack of concern for the walking wounded – those who are still hurting from the devastation wreaked by Thomas Chantry. Again, these are my perceptions, feel free to disagree, state your own opinions in the comments or even start your own blog.

To be fair, my frustration level has been rising over the past three days of testimony as I see Tom Chantry’s attorney, Ryan Stevens, time after time point out inconsistencies with what witnesses have said in this trial and what they have said in the previous trial. Stevens is a sharp attorney, but it doesn’t take a genius to catch the inconsistencies. To date, everyone who has taken the witness stand has testified in the previous Chantry trial, so this is not your first rodeo. You should have a fairly good idea of what to expect when you take the stand.

Is it too much to ask that prior to your testimony you would have reviewed what you have previously said under oath or written in a letter? Apparently so.

How much effort would it have taken to request transcripts of your testimony or reviewed documents you have authored prior to entering court?

Frankly, it is embarrassing to watch Defense Attorney Stevens ask you a question such as, did you previously state “X” in your letter? Your response is, “I don’t believe so,” or “I don’t recall,” followed by Stevens referring you to your letter and then you admitting that yes, you did say that!

It is my opinion that MVBC Elders seriously let down the victims and family members during Chantry’s reign of terror beginning in 1995 through 2000. It is my opinion that you have done so again today with your ill-prepared testimony.

How can you, in your letter to Walter Chantry, state that, “what Tom did would be considered child abuse and could be subject to prosecution.”  But then, in the same letter state that, We were returning him to his full duties and responsibilities as Pastor effective the following Sunday.”

You stated that, “It is still incomprehensible to us as to how these actions by Tom were justified.” I agree. Additionally, I find your actions of returning Tom to his “full duties and responsibilities” incomprehensible.

According to your letter you planned on restoring Tom to his “full duties and responsibilities” on November 13, 2000. I am left to wonder if Chantry’s latest victim, the young boy who was beaten so badly that he had purple welts from the top of his butt to knee level down his thighs, was even able to sit without discomfort by the time you allowed Chantry back in the pulpit? 

Then your letter  to Walt goes on to state that, On December 6, we were calling for a day of prayer and fast and to convene a congregational meeting in the evening. At this meeting, we were to hear from the body. Had they seen sufficient change, not over just the specific sin issue, which most had already forgiven him for, but had they seen a heart-change of attitude in his relationship to his flock?” 

Therefore you were giving the church members 3 1/2 weeks to judge if Tom had changed significantly enough to keep him as your pastor? A “30 day probation period” if you will. Let it be noted that the judge sentenced Chantry to 3 years probation for convictions of assault on two of the four children you knew that he had abused. Did you seriously think Chantry would be a changed man by December 6, 2000? We are still waiting for him to admit his sins.

Finally, why the deference shown to Walter Chantry? A 60 year-old man sticks his nose into something he has no business intruding into – he wants to clean-up little Tommy’s mess, something he has probably been doing for all of what at that point was the 28 years Tom had been alive, and you allow him to do so, even volunteering to send him copies of the letters members of MVBC had written.  Correct me if I am wrong, but don’t Baptist churches prides themselves on being autonomous and independent. MVBC was a member of ARBCA, but Walter Chantry held no position in that organization,

Can anyone imagine a situation where you were 28 years-old, gainfully employed, and your employer had proposed suspending you for 30 days for inappropriate behavior and then your father, who lived 2,000 miles away, stuck his nose in the matter and wrote a nasty letter to your employer, chastising them for daring to suspend his son?

 “It is the opinion of the Elders that Tom has done much damage to the church and to himself by resigning in such fashion.”

That may be true, but in my opinion whatever damage he did by his sudden departure pales in comparison to what he may have done to the next child from your church that he chose to “tutor.”

“We desired to hold him in highest esteem according to what we have been commanded to do in Scripture.”

Were you referring to Scripture such as this:

“This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”
-Ezekiel 34:10 NIV

“We have made excuses for his behavior, citing his youth, his singleness, and his pessimism, in hopes of softening some of his rough edges.”

Yes you have.

Pastor Chris Marley was also on the stand today. He is the current pastor of MVBC and did not arrive there until after Chantry had left.  He was on the stand for a total of about 5 minutes. I don’t think his testimony helped or hindered the prosecution.

I would have liked to seen pastor Marley remain in the courthouse to offer some comfort to CL. Although she is no longer a member of MVBC, I believe she was until 2016. I don’t know any of the back-story, whether CL departed on friendly terms, etc., but regardless of the situation, it would have been great if pastor Marley would have stuck around and done some of that “pastoring” stuff. CL is the mother of the child who was beaten so severely by Chantry that he could hardly walk or sit down; he is the child I described above with the welts. CL still suffers great anguish from what happened to her son. Perhaps pastor Marley still shows love and care for CL out of the public eye. If so, good on him, I hope he does.

I have nothing to say about the testimony of CL except to mention my heart goes out to her.

The testimony of former Prescott Police Department detective Billings (formerly Barnard) was much the same as at the previous trial. This case was the first sexual molestation case she handled after becoming a detective so she could have done a more thorough job. She admitted as much. Defense attorney Stevens made his point about that fact and didn’t belabor it, which I thought was good. Prosecutor Eazer made the point that there are always things you can do better in any investigation.

Sorry for the rant today. I didn’t deal with much of the actual testimony, suffice it to say it was much the same as at the first trial.

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