Baptist Pastors Accused of Sexual Abuse
One Lawsuit Settled, the Other Is Ongoing against Denton County Men
By Donna Fielder
December 17, 2006
Two Denton County Baptist ministers have been sued by women who accuse the pastors of sexual abuse when the women were teenagers.
Larry Reynolds, pastor of Southmont Baptist Church in Denton, and Dale "Dickie" Amyx, pastor of Bolivar Baptist Church near Sanger, were accused in separate lawsuits filed in June.
Different women made the allegations, and the lawsuits are not related. The suit against Dr. Reynolds has been settled; the one against Mr. Amyx is ongoing.
Dr. Reynolds said he could not comment.
"While I would very much like to be able to tell you my side of the story concerning the allegations that were made against me, I am not allowed to do so," Dr. Reynolds wrote in an e-mail to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
Mr. Amyx, 61, referred all questions to his lawyer, James Harrison, who said it would not be appropriate to comment during pending litigation.
If authorities were to investigate the allegations, no charges could be filed because the statute of limitations has run out. In cases involving juveniles, victims can report a crime until 10 years after their 18th birthday. Both women are now older than 28.
Dr. Reynolds is the only pastor Southmont has had; he became its first minister in 1979. Southmont is one of the largest Baptist churches in Denton and has numerous programs in the community, beginning with pre-kindergarten children and continuing with Bible study and mentoring programs through adulthood.
As part of the settlement agreement, Dr. Reynolds issued an apology at a church Thanksgiving banquet Nov. 19, saying he was happy to report that all parties would soon be "dismissed" from the suit and that he needed to read a prepared statement "to bring closure to this process."
"Twenty years ago I made a terrible mistake," the 59-year-old pastor said at the banquet, calling it a "lapse of judgment that caused one of our parishioners great harm."
"I confess that proper boundaries were not kept," he said.
He asked for forgiveness from the woman who filed suit against him. He also asked for forgiveness from God and the church.
The woman's attorney, Catherine Herrington of Houston, declined to comment on her client's behalf. The woman is not being named because of the allegations of sexual abuse.
The woman, now 37 and living in Houston, said in the lawsuit that Dr. Reynolds began molesting her when she was 14, after he began counseling her.
By the time she was 15, Dr. Reynolds was having intercourse with her. That lasted until she was 20, according to court documents. Dr. Reynolds was in his mid-to-late 30s during that time, according to the suit.
"Defendant Reynolds professed his love to Plaintiff verbally and in writing," according to the lawsuit. "Defendant Reynolds promised Plaintiff that when she got older, he would leave his wife and marry her, creating a belief, relied on by Plaintiff, furthering the sickness of Plaintiff, that he would lovingly return to her," the lawsuit said.
The woman's mother said she and her husband found out about the accusations in May 2005 when they went to their daughter's rehabilitation center, where the woman was undergoing therapy. Dr. Reynolds also was there, she said.
"We wondered what he was doing there," she said.
She said that she has confronted Dr. Reynolds since she learned about the accusations.
"I said, 'Why?' And he said, 'I don't know why.'"
Therapists encouraged the woman to file a lawsuit to bring the issue to light, the woman's mother said.
The woman also sued Southmont Baptist Church, the Denton Baptist Association, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptist Convention.
The suit has been settled out of court, and several people familiar with the case said there is a confidentiality clause in the settlement.
In the lawsuit against Mr. Amyx, Debbie Vasquez, 46, said Mr. Amyx began touching her inappropriately when she was 14 and under his counseling. The suit alleges he began having sex with her when she was 15 and that he is the father of a child she gave birth to when she was 18.
Ms. Vasquez agreed to be named for this story.
Her lawsuit, which lists Mr. Amyx and Boliver Baptist Church as defendants, seeks damages for personal and mental injury, past and future reasonable medical costs, and past and future mental anguish. The suit also asks for punitive damages.
Mr. Amyx has been pastor of Bolivar Baptist since 1979. He served as pastor for an Arizona church for a time and before that was a minister at the now-defunct Calvary Baptist Church in Lewisville. The Bolivar church recently moved to a large new building in the Bolivar community near Sanger.
Ms. Vasquez, who would not disclose where she lives, said she met Mr. Amyx at the Lewisville church. She came from an abusive family, according to her lawsuit, and sought counseling from Mr. Amyx, who was an associate minister.
He took her on long drives to discuss her problems and began touching her.
"She begged him to stop and told him that he was hurting her, and his typical response was that she would get used to it," the lawsuit said of their intercourse.
The lawsuit said Mr. Amyx threatened the teen at times with guns and other times with knives, once firing a gun close to her head, according to the suit. He threatened to harm her if she ever betrayed him.
Ms. Vasquez became pregnant at age 18 and told church authorities that Mr. Amyx was the father.
"They forced her to confess before the entire congregation, the fact that she was an unwed pregnant teen-aged girl and to ask for forgiveness," the lawsuit said. "She was also directed never to tell anyone that Amyx was the father of the child she was carrying.
"Amyx by contrast was never required to confess to the congregation that he had committed the crime of raping a young girl under his ministry. Instead, Calvary Baptist Church simply assisted in Amyx's transfer to a church in Arizona for a period of time."
The suit said that the abuse continued through Ms. Vasquez's college years and that Mr. Amyx stalked her as she moved from city to city to try to escape his attention.
In a sworn deposition Mr. Amyx gave Nov. 14, he insisted that Ms. Vasquez was 17 – the age of consent – when he began having sex with her.
He also said in the deposition that he regretted his actions.
"I hated it, that it happened," he said. "I told her many times I never meant to hurt her, and if I did, I'm sorry. And she always said that it was OK."
Mr. Amyx said in his deposition that he paid child support for nine years after being ordered to by a judge when Ms. Vasquez's child was 9 years old.
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