After being raped and impregnated by a fellow churchgoer more than twice her age, a 15-year-old Concord girl was forced by Trinity Baptist Church leaders to stand before the congregation to apologize before they helped whisk her out of state, according to the police.
While her pastor, Chuck Phelps, reported the alleged rape in 1997 to state youth officials, Concord police detectives were never able to find the victim. The victim said she was sent to another church member’s home in Colorado, where she was home-schooled and not allowed to have contact with others her age. It wasn’t until this past February that the victim, who is now 28, decided to come forward after reading about other similar cases, realizing for the first time it wasn’t her fault that she had been raped, she told the police.
The police arrested Ernest Willis, 51, of Gilford, last week in connection with the case, accusing him of raping the girl twice – once in the back seat of a car he was teaching her to drive in and again after showing up at her Concord home while her parents were away. He was charged with four felonies – two counts of rape and two counts of having sex with a minor, court records show.
In a statement to the police, the victim said Willis came to her home in the summer of 1997 without warning.
“He said he wanted to talk to me about something so I let him in the house,” she wrote. “He locked the door behind him and pushed me over to the couch. I had a dress on and he pulled it off. I pushed my hands against his shoulders and said ‘No’ but he didn’t stop.”
At the time of the alleged rape, Phelps was in touch with the police, who told him to contact the Division for Children, Youth and Families.
But moving the girl out of state prevented the police from collecting evidence or a statement, the police said yesterday.
“Without a victim, it makes it very difficult to have a case,” said Lt. Keith Mitchell. “That basically made the investigation very difficult.”
At the time, Willis also refused to give a statement, police records show.
So for 13 years, a file on the case sat closed and marked “unresolved” at the Concord police station.
Police records do not show whether detectives asked church leaders to help them get in contact with the victim or if information was withheld.
“If somebody tried to cover this up or not cover this up, that’s a separate issue,” Mitchell said.
Full story: Police: Girl raped, then relocated