Trial Set for Wife of Deacon

By John Ford
Neosho Daily News
March 15, 2007

Pineville — A jury trial has been set for the wife of a Powell church deacon who is facing a child sexual abuse charge.

Trial for Laura Epling has been set for Oct. 9 in the McDonald County Circuit Court with Fortieth Circuit Court Judge Timothy Perigo presiding.

A pre-trial conference has been set for 10 a.m. June 5, also in the McDonald County Circuit Court with Perigo presiding.

Epling's charges stem from allegations made by a young woman, now 19, who testified that when she was 16, the older woman walked in on her and Raymond Lambert, pastor of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church near Powell, while she was performing oral sex on the pastor. She said the older woman showed her how to perform the act, then took over and later had sex with the pastor while the teen watched.

Epling is one of five church leaders or their spouses connected with either the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church or the Grandview Valley Baptist Church facing child sexual abuse charges. Lambert, faces seven felony counts, including four charges of second degree child molestation and three counts of second degree statutory sodomy. His wife, Patty Epling, faces a felony count of second degree child molestation, as does Mrs. Epling.

Another brother-in-law, Paul Eping, a deacon at Grand Valley, faces a charge of rape for an incident dating back to 1978.

Raymond Lambert's uncle, George Otis Johnston, pastors Grandview Valley Baptist Church, an off-shoot of the McDonald County congregation which is located in Granby. Johnston faces 17 counts of child sexual abuse in Newton County and a felony charge of child molestation in McDonald County. Trial on the first eight of the Newton County charges is expected to get under way June 25.

Laura Epling's husband, Tom Epling, had faced five charges of child sexual abuse. However, the charges were dropped because the statute of limitations had run out in the case. Tom Epling faces no other charges.

Pineville — A jury trial has been set for an ex-clerk in the McDonald County Prosecutor's Office facing three charges of child endangerment.

Trial for Brandy Hurley has been set for June 26 in Judge Timothy Perigo's McDonald County Circuit Courtroom.

A probable cause statement filed by Deputy W.L. Davenport with the McDonald County Sheriff's Department said Brandy Hurley "knowingly acted in a manner that created a substantial risk to the life, body or health" of three girls by failing to report one of them told her that Hurley's husband, Denton Hurley, had been sexually abusing her.

Denton Hurley was arrested on charges he had deviate sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl. Denton Hurley faces an unclassified count of first degree statutory sodomy and three Class B felony charges of first degree child molestation.

The statutory sodomy charge is an unclassified felony, meaning Denton Hurley could face 10 to 30 years to life in prison, if convicted. The child molestation charges are Class B felonies and carry a penalty of five to 15 years in prison, if a conviction is reached.

Special Prosecutor Bill Dobbs recently requested a change of judge in the case. The request has been turned over to the Missouri Supreme Court for reassignment.

On Dec. 18, after hearing testimony from the accuser's father, Judge Stremel ruled there was probable cause to continue criminal proceedings against Brandy Hurley.

After the charges were filed in October, Brandy Hurley was fired from her job as a clerk in the McDonald County Prosecutor's Office.


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