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Tag: Child Abuse

Black Collar Crime: Over Hundred People Report Allegations of Sexual Abuse in UK Jehovah’s Witnesses Congregations

jehovahs witnessess

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

According to a blockbuster report in The Guardian, over one-hundred people have contacted the newspaper with allegations of sexual abuse in Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations.

The Guardian reports:

More than 100 people have contacted the Guardian with allegations of child sexual abuse and other mistreatment in Jehovah’s Witness communities across the UK.

Former and current members, including 41 alleged victims of child sexual abuse, described a culture of cover-ups and lies, with senior members of the organisation, known as elders, discouraging victims from coming forward for fear of bringing “reproach on Jehovah” and being exiled from the congregation and their families.

A Guardian investigation also heard from 48 people who experienced other forms of abuse, including physical violence when they were children, and 35 who witnessed or heard about others who were victims of child grooming and abuse.

The stories told to the Guardian ranged from events decades ago to more recent, and many of those who came forward have now contacted the police.

They told the Guardian about:

  • An organisation that polices itself and teaches members to avoid interaction with outside authorities.
  • A rule set by the main governing body of the religion that means for child sexual abuse to be taken seriously there must be two witnesses to it.
  • Alleged child sex abuse victims claiming they were forced to recount allegations in front of their abuser.
  • Young girls who engage in sexual activity before marriage being forced to describe it in detail in front of male elders.

A solicitor representing some of the alleged victims said she believed there were thousands of complainants in the UK and that the people who have contacted the Guardian were “just the tip of the iceberg”.

One alleged victim, Rachel Evans, who has waived her right to anonymity, claimed there was a paedophile ring active in the 1970s, although details of the case cannot be divulged due to a current investigation.

“Within the Jehovah’s Witnesses there is an actual silencing and also a network where if someone went to the elders and said ‘there is a problem with this’ and they believe you, the whole thing will be dealt with in-house. But often these people are not dealt with, they are either moved to another congregation or told to keep their head down for a few years,” she said.

Another victim, who did not want to be named, said she was abused by a ministerial servant (someone with congregational responsibilities) in the organisation in the 1970s.

“I was sexually abused many times a week from the age of three until I was 12. Congregation elders knew that when I told them, at 12, what had been happening. No steps were taken to tell the police. I had to tell three male senior figures what had happened. Imagine that? A young girl telling a bunch of men what this man did to me. I wasn’t even allowed to have my mother there with me.”

After she went to the police about what had happened, the person who abused her pleaded guilty and was eventually convicted. “The Jehovah’s Witnesses should lose their charity status as they are not protecting children,” she added. She said she had mental health issues as a result of what happened and how it was dealt with.

….

When a Jehovah’s Witness experiences sexual abuse they are supposed to report it to elders, who are always men, who will take further action if there is a second witness to the offence. The perpetrator will then be called before a judicial committee if they admit abuse or if there is a second witness.

“This causes further trauma to the victim and coupled with the two-witness rule, is undoubtedly the reason that so many victims have never reported it,” said Kathleen Hallisey, senior solicitor in the abuse team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, who is currently acting on behalf of 15 alleged victims.

She also noted that the problem with the two-witness rule in the context of sexual abuse was that there were rarely witnesses to it, “meaning that [these] reports … are usually dismissed”.

….

The Charity Commission launched an investigation in 2013 looking into the Manchester New Moston congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, concluding that it did not deal adequately with allegations of child abuse made against one of the trustees.

The commission is still running an inquiry into the main government body of the group, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain. This is examining the child safeguarding policy and procedures further.

Following the investigation into the Manchester New Moston congregation last year, the Watch Tower changed its policy so that victims are no longer required to confront their abuser face to face.

A former elder, who was asked to investigate a child abuse case in 2007, claimed he was urged not to contact the police, although it was decided that the perpetrator should not be assigned to work with children.

However, the then elder – who left in 2012 over how the case was handled – said that this rule was not followed by everyone and when he raised this as a concern he was told to back off.

“I hugely regret the fact that I wasn’t able to do anything at the time and I didn’t have the strength. And that lives with me,” he said.

Other former Jehovah’s Witnesses told how they were forced to share personal sexual experiences at a young age, after breaking rules set by the religion.

One woman, who wished to be anonymous, was called to a meeting with elders after she had sex at 15, which goes against the rule of no sex before marriage. “This meeting was three older men and me, a scared 15-year-old, who had just had sex for the first time. They had to know all the details before they chose my punishment,” she said.

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You can read the rest of the feature story here.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Missionaries Jim and Paige Nachtigal Sentenced on Child Abuse Charges

jim and paige nachtigal

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Two former Evangelical missionaries to Peru, Jim and Paige Nachtigal, have been convicted of child abuse charges and sentenced to thirty-two months in prison. Jim Nachtigal was, for ten years, the CEO of the Kansas Christian Home in Newton, Kansas. His wife was a missionary for World Outreach Ministries at the time the abuse allegations surfaced.

Amy Renee Leiker, a reporter for The Wichita Eagle writes:

It’s been more than two years since North Newton Police Chief Randy Jordan removed three Peruvian orphans from a tidy home in a tidy neighborhood in his town.

He still gets choked up when he talks about the signs of abuse he saw.

Sitting on the witness stand in a Harvey County courtroom on Thursday morning, he paused to wipe away tears when a prosecutor asked him to describe the children’s injuries.

On the day he took them away from their adoptive parents, Jim and Paige Nachtigal, two of the children – a boy and a girl who were both 11 – looked so thin he was confident they’d been starved. The third, 15, had managed to escape the brunt of the abuse.

The boy had a knot on his elbow, he noticed. The younger girl was limping because her leg had been broken. Both talked of being beaten with a cane and a wooden spoon when they didn’t do the pushups, sit ups and jumping jacks that had been dolled out for punishment quite right. The bruises and welts on their bodies corroborated the account.

Jordan’s testimony came just a few hours before Harvey County District Judge Joe Dickinson ordered Jim and Paige Nachtigal to serve 32 months in prison over their treatment of the children. Known in the local religious community for their involvement at church and their missionary work abroad, the couple was convicted of several counts of child abuse last summer.

Initially they pleaded not guilty. But in August they entered an Alford plea, which allows a person to be convicted of a crime and take advantage of any deal that’s being offered by prosecutors without admitting guilt. The state agreed to drop several other felony charges in exchange, Yoder said at the time.

The Nachtigals’ defense attorneys, Kevin Loeffler and Brent Boyer, asked that they be placed on probation. Neither has prior convictions, are not a danger to society and could receive treatment in the community, their attorneys argued.

Prior to his arrest, Jim Nachtigal served as the chief executive officer at Kansas Christian Home in Newton for 10 years. His wife a missionary at World Outreach Ministries when the abuse surfaced.

….

Jordan, the North Newton police chief, launched an investigation into the children’s welfare in February 2016 after the 11-year-old boy ran away from his home, 401 E. 24th St. in North Newton, for the second time. A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who was part of a team searching for the boy found him wandering barefoot in a field. The boy told the trooper he feared returning home because he hadn’t done his homework and that was a sin.

What Jordan discovered next – that the kids had been given little or no food, beaten and isolated – eventually led to the Nachtigals’ arrests and criminal charges.

Later medical examinations of the 11-year-olds by pediatrician Kerri Weeks, who specializes in abuse cases, revealed what she said in court was the “extremely severe” nature of the abuse.

The children, she testified, both had calloused hands and cracked feet from excessive exercise and wearing ill-fitting or no shoes, open and sometimes “weeping” sores on their buttocks from spankings, 2-inch long welts consistent with cane whippings and malnourishment so severe that their bones were wasting away.

The starvation had gotten so bad that when the children did get to eat, their bodies “didn’t know what to do” with the food, she testified.

….

The Nachtigals adopted all three children from a region of Peru where they had previously done missionary work. The older girl was adopted through an agency around 2012. The younger girl and the boy were adopted together about a year later. Jordan has previously said that the Department for Children and Families received around a dozen reports from people voicing concern about the Nachtigals treatment of their adoptive children – some coming as early as 2014 – but none were forwarded to his department for investigation.

School staff were among those who contacted DCF after they noticed the boy would bring only a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and would beg for his teacher not to make him go home on Fridays.

….

jim and paige nachtigal 2

Black Collar Crime: Christian Couple and Their Son Accused of Abusing Their Adopted Children

sharon, donald, and steven windey

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Sharon Windey stands accused of abusing and neglecting her adopted children. As of the writing of this post, her husband, Donald, nor their biological son Steven, have been charged with a crime. The Green Bay Press reports that charges against the father and son are forthcoming. The father is sitting in jail, unable to post bond. The son posted a cash bond and was released. Their next court date is March 9, 2018.

The following article does not mention the name of the church attended by the family. it will be interesting to find out exactly where Sharon and Don Windey learned their child-rearing “skills.”

ABC-2 reports:

A De Pere woman and former Wisconsin State Trooper has been charged with several counts of child abuse and neglect of her adopted children. The abuse allegedly went on for over a decade despite reports to police and officials.

Sharon Windey, 54, appeared in Brown County court Thursday on charges of physical abuse of a child; strangulation and suffocation; battery; child neglect; and mental harm to a child.

A 42-page criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News details years of emotional, physical, and mental abuse inside the Windey home.

The complaint states the investigation found “overwhelming” confirmation that since 2006, there have been Child Protective Services referrals, police contacts and reports from school officials about the three children being victims of physical abuse, mental abuse, child neglect and inappropriate sexual contact in the home on Sullivan Street.

On Feb. 12, 2018, De Pere Police assigned a sergeant to investigate reports of possible abuse at the home where the children lived with Sharon Windey, her husband Donald Windey, and the couple’s 25-year-old son Steven Windey. One of the kids described Steven as a “third parent.”

Investigators started interviewing the three adopted children–a girl aged 15; a girl aged 14; and a boy aged 15.

The kids described being punched, choked, spanked, thrown against a wall, hair pulling, food punishment and exercise punishment.

Both girls said the parents used “excessive feedings of oatmeal” as a punishment. The boy once threw up the oatmeal and the father “made him eat his own vomit and the oatmeal,” reads the complaint. The father told the boy “people were dying in Africa and he needed to eat the puke and oatmeal.”

One of the girls described locks on the freezer, cabinet and pantry.

One girl told investigators that her dad would make her sit on his lap and he would kiss her on the lips. She said he would also touch or grab the girls in other places on their bodies.

She also talked about a punishment in which the kids were forced to strip down to their underwear and kneel in front of a fireplace.

The kids described a shower punishment. If they took a shower longer than seven minutes, they would have to pay money for every minute they go over.

One of the girls said the parents are “very careful” to try not to leave visible marks on them.

The boy described the parents as “delusional … religious freaks.” The boy said his dad hears his guardian angel who tells him what to do.

“They are outgoing and they try to put up the facade of being the perfect family outside of our house,” the boy told investigators. “They will scare us with punishments. They will take things out of our room. For being disrespectful, they will hit them; slap them across the face and stuff. The hitting has happened multiple times.”

The boy described the day of Feb. 11, 2018. He said Donald wanted the kids to go to church but they refused. The father told them to clean everything out of their rooms. One of the girls was denied medicine for not going to church. He said the mom started struggling with one of the girls. During the struggle, the mother was pushed down the stairs. The boy said Steven heard the commotion and charged at him and started to punch him in the head.

The police arrived at the home. The boy said the officers told Sharon and Steven to call the police earlier so it doesn’t escalate to this point. The officers left.

Later there was another fight when when of the girls wanted medicine. After the fight, the kids went to a friend’s home. The man at the home called police to report the abuse.

….

Neither Donald Windey or Steven Windey have been charged. They are identified by name in Sharon Windey’s criminal complaint.

Why Do Pastors Defend and Support Criminals?

god of second chances

As I wade through the neck-deep filth in the Evangelical gutter gathering information for the Black Collar Crime series, one common event shows up in story after story: that when these criminals are on trial or they are being sentenced for their crimes, their pastors are on hand to let everyone know that the predator pastor was a good person who did a bad thing. Often, these testifying pastors tell judges and juries that the criminal’s good works outweigh any bad that he might have done; that molesting and raping children or sexually assaulting church members is somehow atoned for by the church member’s or ex-pastor’s good works. These so-called men of God even go so far as to ask the courts to grant the convicted offender probation, promising that the child molester/rapist has turned over a new leaf and has crossed-his-heart-hoped-to-die promised that he will never, ever rape, molest, look at child porn, or take sexual advantage of woman. Why do pastors seem so willing to be character references for criminals?

First, when a church member or colleague in the ministry is accused and convicted of a sex crime, it makes the church and pastor look bad. Churches and their pastors supposedly set the moral standard for their communities. Yet, here’s a fine, upstanding congregant or pastor behaving in ways that make a mockery of Christian morality. So the testifying pastor, by putting a good word in for the criminal, hopes to remediate his church’s reputation. Unfortunately, by testifying, what he really says to the community is that he believes there should be a separate standard of punishment for Christian church members and pastors.

Second, many pastors believe “sinning” church members and pastors deserve a second chance. If Jesus forgave them, shouldn’t everyone else? Think of all the good Child Molester Bob or Rapist Jack could do in the community if they were given probation. Why, they could travel from church to church telling how God delivered them from sexual deviancy. Isn’t God wonderful? Bob says. I stand before you today as a humbled man forgiven by God. I am so grateful that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gave me another opportunity to serve him! Later that night, Bob slips into his car and drives the streets looking for another child to molest. God will forgive him, he thinks. Isn’t God awesome?

Testifying pastors seem to forget that our justice system is expected to mete out punishment to those convicted of crimes. Why all the pleas for understanding and forgiveness? These same pastors will preach thundering sermons about God’s judgment of sinners and their impending doom in hell, yet when it comes to criminal church members and pastors, it is expected that they be treated as if their crimes were insignificant or worthy of special treatment.

Forgiveness is up to the victims and not the courts. Courts are supposed to weigh facts and evidence and render appropriate judgment. Testifying pastors are callous and tone deaf when they ask courts to grant convicted congregants and pastors probation or community service. Should not the victims be their primary concern? Yet, in case after case, pastors re-victimize victims by their unwavering love, compassion, and support for rapists, child molesters, and those who use their positions of power to take advantage of others.

Third, some testifying pastors don’t believe the crime was as bad as prosecutors made it out to be. Yes, Youth Pastor Jim was thirty and in a position of authority, but come on, the girl was sixteen, Why, she was a-l-m-o-s-t an adult. I wonder if pastors who think this way would do so if it was THEIR daughter Youth Pastor Jim had sex with in his church office? I doubt it.

Fourth, some testifying pastors simply refuse to live in the real world. Surely, there must be some other explanation for Suzie accusing Deacon Joe of molesting her. Deacon Joe is a fine family man, the pastor says. I’ve known his family for forty years. I assure you that Deacon Bob could never, ever — I mean NEVER — molest his daughter. (Deep down he believes Suzie is possessed by a demon.) Even after the judge says GUILTY! some pastors refuse to believe the truth staring them in the face; that they didn’t know this or that pastor or church members as well as they thought they did.

Child molesters and sexual abusers can hide their behavior for decades. It is often only when children become adults that they have the courage to speak about what their father, pastor, youth pastor, deacon, teacher, or Sunday school teacher did to them. Testifying pastors wonder, why didn’t they come forward sooner? It sure looks like they did so for the money.  Evidently, such pastors expect children to act like adults, refusing to see that when an authority figure has power over someone, a victim often becomes incapacitated by fear or loss of love from family and church. It’s not that they don’t want to report what has happened to them — they can’t. And often, when victims DO speak up, what happens? They aren’t believed or they are accused of being culpable for what happened to them. This is especially the case with churches on the right-wing fringe of the Evangelicalism. More than one girl has been forced to stand before her church and “confess” her sins.  Imagine being raped by a church leader, only to be forced to apologize for being such an easy target for the rapist.

I have some advice I would like to give to testifying pastors. SHUT THE HELL UP! Don’t testify. Don’t be a character reference. Don’t talk up the abuser’s good works and family. Instead, support the victims and their families. Help them find professional care for their psychological scars. Let the criminal face the just consequences of his behavior. Surely you have not forgotten that the Bible says that a man reaps what he sows. There will be plenty of time for you to minister to your convicted church member or colleague in the ministry. In open court is not the time. Are you listening, pastors?

Black Collar Crime: Hyles-Anderson College Teacher Joe Combs Sentenced for Raping His Daughter

joe combsIn March 2000, Joe Combs and his wife Evangeline were tried and convicted on numerous criminals charged related to their ritual abuse and rape of their adopted daughter. Joe Combs was the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bristol, Tennessee. He previously had been a trusted member of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana and a teacher at Hyles-Anderson College.

The Combses case was brought to memory recently when police arrested “David Turpin and Louise Turpin earlier this month in Riverside County, California, on charges of torture, child abuse, dependent adult abuse and false imprisonment.”

Dalena Mathews and Robert Sorrell, reporters for the Bristol Herald Courier had this to say:

Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus said news of the Turpin case brought back memories of a case he prosecuted in 2000.
“I immediately remembered the Combs trial and started comparing it to what’s happening in [the Turpin] case,” Staubus said in a recent interview with the Bristol Herald Courier.

“The difference is that in the Combs case, it centered on the sadistic, brutal treatment of Esther Combs.”

….

In November 1998, Bristol Tennessee Police arrested Joseph D. Combs, pastor of the now-defunct Emmanuel Baptist Church on Weaver Pike, and his wife, Evangeline Combs, on charges that they brutalized, Esther, a girl they were raising as their daughter.

The couple and their children were living in the church parsonage at the time the abuse took place.

Grand jury indictments against the couple were the culmination of a multi-jurisdictional investigation that began in February 1997, according to Blaine Wade, who now serves as Bristol Tennessee’s police chief.

Police began investigating when Esther, then 19, was taken to Bristol Regional Medical Center for treatment after she attempted to commit suicide.
Hospital staff discovered that her body was covered in layers of scar tissue. It was revealed during the trial that she had more than 400 scars.
The case went to trial more than a year later in March 2000. Lawyers questioned 121 jurors over six days before agreeing on the 12-member jury. The 12 jurors selected for the case included five retirees, a nurse, a press room manager, a bread salesman, a fast food restaurant manager and several Eastman employees. The group also included two church deacons and a Sunday school teacher.

….

Subpoenaed witnesses for the defense included two Michigan lawyers who represented Esther in a civil action against the Combses and against the Indiana adoption agency that placed her with the family.

Esther led a tortured life behind the locked doors of a Bristol church, enduring rapes, beatings and burnings at the hands of the people who should have protected her, Staubus said in his opening statement.

“Inside this locked, closed fellowship hall, there were sinister things going on,” Staubus said.

The couple systematically beat and abused the girl with baseball bats, wood burners, pliers, pieces of tin and metal whips, the prosecutor said.
“Mrs. Combs found out about [the abuse], and she blamed Esther and she viciously abused her,” Staubus told the jury.

Along with physical abuse and rape came other forms of cruelty, Staubus said. Esther was starved, denied an education and medical treatment and was “separated out to be the family servant,” the prosecutor said. “You will hear and see evidence of lies, betrayed trust, assaults, injuries, brutality, molestation and even torture.”

Defense attorneys, Spivey and Joe Harrison, said Esther had an ulterior motive. “She has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, and has received compensation for stories she has told to news agencies and newspaper people,” Spivey said.

Spivey said the most important evidence would come from the girl’s five brothers and sisters, who would testify she was a “disturbed young woman who inflicted injuries on herself.”

The jury was shown 58 photographs, which were taken by Richmond on the day the young woman was admitted to the hospital. The photographs showed red, whip-like marks covering the young woman’s back, raised scars on her buttocks and near her genitals, and other scars on her forehead, chin, neck, wrists, arms, breasts and legs.

When the detective tried to uncover the cause of the disfiguring marks on the young woman’s body, she was met by silence, Richmond said.

“Joe Combs told me he did not know she had scars and that he had never seen the scars before,” Richmond said. “He said she was very clumsy and she fell down a lot on the pavement.”

Esther took the stand on the 12th day of the trial, where a standing-room only crowd filled the courtroom. Joseph and Evangeline Combs showed little reaction to the testimony and rarely looked at Esther Combs while she was speaking.

“My earliest memory is of being tied to the high chair and thrown down the stairs by Mrs. Combs,” Esther testified, drawing gasps from the crowd of courtroom spectators.

She testified that the abuse continued for the next two decades as she detailed numerous incidents of abuse by Joseph and Evangeline Combs.

So many people wanted to observe the trial, Judge Beck set up a lottery system to determine which members of the public would get seats for the court session. He said he would not let spectators stand in the courtroom, but on certain days, some were allowed to do so.

A number of witnesses testified on behalf of the defense that the Combs children were “normal, happy children.”

The couple’s other children denied the allegations against their parents.

The former pastor adamantly denied allegations that he raped, tortured or enslaved Esther.

“I love her. I thought she loved me,” Joseph Combs said. “I’m bewildered by all of this. I can’t get my mind around it. It doesn’t make sense.”
Combs took the stand, but his wife did not.

After deliberating for just four hours, the jury delivered a guilty verdict. Joseph and Evangeline Combs were found guilty of especially aggravated kidnapping. Joseph Combs was also convicted of aggravated rape, aggravated assault, aggravated perjury and seven counts of rape. Evangeline Combs was also convicted of four counts of aggravated child abuse. The trial ultimately lasted 31 days, one of the longest in Sullivan County history.

On April 26, 2000, Joseph Combs was sentenced to 114 years behind bars. He later died in prison. Evangeline Combs received a 65-year sentence.

….

What follows is a video from the trial. Warning! This video is graphic:

Video Link

In 1998, The Chicago Times reported:

The fundamentalist Baptist minister charged with kidnapping, raping and torturing a girl he took from a Porter County children’s home was once a respected Bible teacher at Hyles Anderson College in St. John Township.

When the Rev. Joseph and Evangeline Combs allegedly illegally adopted a 4-month old girl from the Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries in Kouts, he was “probably the foremost Bible instructor at Hyles Anderson,” said Jerry Kaifetz, a former student at the school and now an ordained minister. The family settled in a comfortable ranch home along a cul du sac in northwest Merrillville, where neighbors say the children were polite, well behaved and said they were not allowed to talk to adults unless their parents were present.

….

Joyce McGowan, a neighbor of the Combs family when they lived in Merrillville, said the Combses often tried to talk McGowan and her husband into accompanying them to Sunday services at First Baptist Church in Hammond. The Combs children were not allowed to exchange even small talk with McGowan, she said. McGowan also said she recalled the Combses often commenting how often their adoptive daughter seemed to be ill. “She was the one we didn’t see too often,” McGowan said. “She was small at that time, I think she couldn’t have been but 9 or 10 when they moved away. When we did see her, she had the saddest little face you ever saw.”

Prosecutors in Tennessee said the girl lived a hellish existence with her adoptive parents, being tortured and sexually abused as she was brainwashed into believing she was being raised to be the family’s slave because it was “God’s will.” The alleged abuse was discovered when the woman, who turns 21 on Monday, was hospitalized after a suicide attempt last year. Federal court records show the Combses were given the little girl in March 1978 by the operators of the Baptist Children’s Home. The adoption process was never completed. In a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Hammond, lawyers for the woman said their client was systematically tortured by the Combses, never allowed to attend school and not told she was adopted or that a judge never awarded custody of her to the Combses. The lawyers are suing the Combses for their alleged abuse and the Baptist Children’s Home for negligence. The lawsuit does not specify the damages being sought.

….

Kaifetz said Combs left the area, probably in 1985, during a controversy over his sale of Bible study books at the college. He has had no contact with Combs since then, but did see an advertisement for his ministry several years ago in a religious publication.

The Rev. Jack Hyles, the pastor of the First Baptist Church and chancellor of Hyles Anderson College, could not be reached for comment Saturday. Beverly Hyles, his wife, said neither one of them has had any contact with the Combses since they left the area, taking 40 or so Hyles Anderson students with them to start their Tennessee church. “He has called us several times,” Hyles said. “We have not returned any of his calls.”

The woman’s lawsuit says she faces huge medical bills as the result of her alleged mistreatment. Among the injuries the Combses are alleged to have inflicted upon the woman were broken bones, dislocated joints, severe and repeated lacerations and trauma and damage to the nervous system and vascular systems. She is being cared for in Michigan by a foster family and has met both of her birth parents since her suicide attempt, said Gregg Herman, one of her lawyers.

Jennifer Talirico, another former neighbor of the Combses, said she was horrified to learn of the charges pending against the Combses. “They kept to themselves, they certainly weren’t the type to have neighbors over or anything like that,” Talirico said. “But God, I wish I knew what was going on in that house.”

Bruce Gerencser