WMUR TV News 9 in New Hampshire announced via live blogging from the courtroom today that Ernest Willis was found guilty on two counts of forcible rape and one count of felonious sexual assault of then 15 year old Tina Anderson in 1997. Willis was in his late thirties and was married with four children when the abuse occurred.
When Anderson became pregnant by Willis as a consequence of the rapes, Pastor Chuck Phelps of Trinity Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) affiliated church in Concord, NH, arranged for her to be sent to Colorado to carry the baby to term after being forced to repent to her congregation for “putting herself in a compromising situation.” While she was kept in social isolation and homeschooled by an albeit kind family until some time after her baby was delivered and adopted, Willis continued to have unchecked access to everyone among church congregants who were kept ignorant that Willis had committed statutory rape. Read more HERE.
ABC News reported on the matter prior to the trial in a 20/20 episode entitled Shattered Faith offers a narrative report on their website. The 20/20 Episode which aired on April 8, 2011 can be viewed HERE, and a narrative of the case appears HERE. WMUR posted this video about the verdict wherein Jocelyn Zichterman who first contacted the police regarding the reports of the dated crime on the IFB Cult Survivors Facebook page stands beside Anderson outside the courtroom, addressing the press. Zichterman was also featured in the 20/20 interview along with Anderson.
The court heard closing arguments late in the day on Thursday, May 26th, and the jury convened at 9AM this morning, producing a verdict that was read just after 4PM per WMUR's live blogging coverage on their website. Willis was lead from the courtroom in handcuffs and will remain in custody until sentencing.
He faces a possible maximum sentence of 50 years in prison for all of the charges (including the felony of the assault per the guilty verdict and for statutory rape to which Willis confessed before the trial), though it appears that New Hampshire does not have a minimum prison term for the charges. No information has been released regarding how long Willis will have to remain in jail awaiting sentencing.
Many pastors and individuals within the IFB believe that even a very young child bears some fault if they are molested because it is believed that they have solicited the abuse in some way through overt or covert sexual behavior. Ron Williams of Hephzibah House in Winona Lake, IN and his late wife Patti have both taught that such females are “strange women” developing an entire doctrine about girls and women who have been robbed of their sexual purity. (The term “strange woman” derives from an Old Testament literal translation from Hebrew which describes prostitutes.) Many affiliated with the IFB believe that a woman loses a vital element of her worth and bear the “heart of a strange woman” for eternity after they have been violated because something about them allegedly solicited their abuse. Williams' Hephzibah House is one such dumping ground for these young women, a suburban gulag that has operated since the early 1970s that is supported and defended IFB affiliates. Though some of the abject physical abuse that took place in earlier decades at Hephzibah House has abated somewhat in response to criticism from girls who were incarcerated there, the “home for troubled girls” and their “reform program” continues to operate today. Learn more about the abuse that took place at Hephzibah House HERE at HephzibahGirls.com.
In weeks to come, this website will feature a transcription of teachings and critical commentary of Williams' doctrine of the “Strange Woman.”