Tom Chantry, once prominent in Reformed Baptist circles, has been found guilty in a new trial on four separate counts of child molestation. His father is the esteemed Walter Chantry.
Todd Wilhelm, who has covered the Chantry investigation and trials from the beginning, reports yesterday’s court proceedings:
YESTERDAY’S COURT PROCEEDINGS
Present in the courtroom gallery today were Tom Chantry’s wife, Karen and Tom’s sister, Judy Rogers. Also sitting on the Defendants side of the gallery was a woman whom I believe was the wife of Detective Rich Robertson. On the other side of the aisle was a reporter for the Prescott/Camp Verde newspapers, three individuals who were formerly members of Grace Covenant Church in Gilbert, AZ…
Noticeable by their absence from the entire trial were any ARBCA pastors.
Noticeable by their absence today were any of the individuals who testified in this case, or any member of the Miller Valley Baptist Church.
In the morning session of court we heard the closing arguments from the Prosecutor, Susan Eazer and Defense attorney, Ryan Stevens. Both arguments went about as I expected.
Ms. Eazer highlighted the testimony of the victim, mentioning his letter written in 2000 for the upcoming ARBCA investigation. Ms. Eazer noted that while the letter never specifically mentioned the victim was molested by Thomas Chantry, it did paint a picture that screamed out what happened, noting that the victim called Thomas Chantry a sick, twisted monster…
Ms. Eazer then delved into the testimony of the other witnesses and stated that Thomas Chantry likes to spank little boys; he likes to cause pain and that pain then gives him an excuse to comfort, touch and molest. Ms. Eazer noted that Chantry only spanked the female victim once (Chantry was convicted of assaulting her and her brother in the first trial.) because Tom likes little boys…
[Chantry’s defense attorney] began his closing argument at 10:50. He said that the States case relies directly on the victim’s credibility and believability and he was going to show the jury how the victim contradicted himself and asked the jury to assess the quality of the victim’s memory.
Mr. Stevens noted that the testimony of the victim was completely uncorroborated, there was no objective physical evidence, there was exaggeration by witnesses, there was mention of horrible beatings but no doctor visits, there was an ineffective, nearly non-existent police investigation and there were many contradictions in all the witness’s testimony based on transcripts from the prior sworn testimony to this trial…
Following lunch, [the prosecutor] conducted her rebuttal. She countered some of the points [defense counsel] made in his closing argument and went on the offensive against Thomas Chantry, stating that he wanted to see little boys butts turn red, he liked inflicting pain, but Chantry used this pain so he could then comfort the child and this would then lead to the “touching.”
Chantry used spankings as a gateway into molestation which is why the testimony of other victims and their parents is relevant to this case, said Ms. Eazer.
Ms. Eazer then talked of how Chantry groomed the parents and how he took advantage of the boys ultra-religious upbringing, threatening them that God wouldn’t be happy with them if they told anyone of the spankings and they wouldn’t get into heaven. You can finish reading here.
Tom Chantry has been found guilty of each of the four additional counts of child molestation, according to early reports out of the court.
This is on top of being previously found guilty of two counts of aggravated assault in a separate trial.
The Association of Reformed Baptist Church of America (ARBCA) has taken a beating over this. Essentially, ARBCA knew of some shadiness regarding Chantry, but did not properly contact authorities many years ago. And then more recently, ARBCA leadership approved his church’s entrance into the denomination, even though they were aware of past behavior. When asking around privately, those affiliated with ARBCA have told Pulpit & Pen that they knew there was a criminal investigation into Chantry, but they felt pressure from Chantry’s supporters to let his church enter ARBCA. ARBCA leaders have claimed that if they declined his membership, he would ask why and they might inadvertently obstruct justice if they told him about the investigation.
We find this claim to be credible, knowing ARBCA leadership. However credible their reason, it is obviously not an excuse. There seems to be, in hindsight, a number of ways to both decline Chantry membership in ARBCA and not obstruct justice. This is on top of an initial investigatory committee by ARBCA that was done very, very poorly.
We believe ARBCA is salvageable, but that they must begin to communicate openly and put a mandatory reporting plan into place within the denominational structure and recommend that each cooperating church install their own mandatory reporting policies within the local congregation.
In the meantime, P&P has spoken to numerous Chantry supporters, some of them notable, who still believe in his innocence regarding molestation accusations. They virtually all acknowledge that Chantry was sadistic and abusive from a preponderance of the evidence, but refuse to believe that he was guilty of sexual molestation.
OUR EDITORIAL THOUGHTS
Chantry’s lawyers argued that because so much time has gone by between the incidents and the investigation and subsequent trial, victim testimony is unreliable. While we understand trepidation in trusting the years-old memory of those who were but mere children when the events took place, that’s really the fault of the churches and ecclesiastical leaders who didn’t report the incidents to the authorities at the time.
Perhaps if everyone was quick to report and allow a proper investigation, we wouldn’t be worried about the proper recollection of events.
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