Leaders to Be in Court
By John Ford
Neosho Daily News
December 3, 2006
Pineville - Court dates were set last week for two McDonald County church leaders accused of child sexual abuse.
Raymond Lambert, 51, and his wife, Patty, 49, were bound over for trial on Monday. Both are to be arraigned Tuesday morning in McDonald County Circuit Court with Judge Timothy Perigo presiding.
Raymond Lambert is the pastor of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church.
Raymond Lambert faces a total of seven felony counts: a Class C felony charge of sexual abuse; three Class C felony charges of second degree statutory sodomy, and three Class D charges of second degree child molestation. Charges allege he acted in concert with his wife, Patty Lambert, in molesting a girl who was less than 17 at the time of the alleged incident, and of acting in concert with another church member of molesting a girl under the age of 17 at the time of the alleged incident.
On Oct. 2, two women testified they were molested as teenagers by Raymond Lambert, with one young woman, now 19, telling the court that Lambert was her uncle. Both women were members of Lambert's congregation. Both said Lambert told them they would grow closer to God by having a sexual encounter with him.
"He said I was giving my body to God, giving myself to God, through him," the older woman testified. "He said he was pleased and therefore, God was pleased.
"He was my minister. I trusted him with my soul, basically."
The younger woman testified that at about age 12, Raymond Lambert told her she should not be ashamed of her body, and she should give herself to God by having a sexual encounter with him. She showed her breasts to the pastor, who then told her that her body belonged to him.
"He told me not to be ashamed of my body or to be ashamed of him, as I was giving myself to him and God."
The younger woman also testified that during one alleged incident, the wife of another church member walked in on the two while the teen was performing oral sex on the pastor. She said the woman, whom she identified as Laura Epling, showed her how to do the act, then had sex with the pastor while the girl watched.
This testimony led to a Class C felony charge of second degree statutory sodomy against Laura Epling, the wife of church deacon Tom Epling. Her preliminary hearing has been set for 9 a.m. Dec. 18 in McDonald County Circuit Court with Newton County Division II Associate Circuit Court Judge Greg Stremel presiding.
A preliminary hearing has also been set for church deacon Paul Epling, who faces an unclassified felony charge of rape dating back to Nov. 7, 1978. Epling will appeart at 9 a.m. Dec. 18 before Judge Stremel on the charge. He originally was charged with two counts of first degree statutory rape and five counts of first degree statutory sodomy.
Information on the status of charges and possible court dates for Tom Epling was not available electronically Saturday.
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