Fourth Person Alleges Abuse in Shifflett Case
By Liz Mitchell
Culpeper Star Exponent [Virginia]
March 7, 2006
Three new warrants related to charges of child endangerment were obtained Monday in the ongoing case of Charles Shifflett, who was held overnight in Culpeper County Jail, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Sgt. Jim Fox said Shifflett, 54, pastor of First Baptist Church of Culpeper, is scheduled for a bond hearing this morning.
Eight warrants have been obtained against Shifflett since Jan. 17 on charges of cruelty and injury to children, child endangerment, indecent liberties with a child and felonious assault against a 10-year-old girl.
Shifflett faces up to 45 years in prison, nine years in jail or a fine of up to $22,500 for all Class 6 felonies.
Two of the latest charges stem from warrants obtained by 28-year-old Culpeper resident Woody Leak, who attended Calvary Baptist Church as a child when Shifflett was the pastor there.
The church also has a K-12 school, which Leak attended when the alleged physical and emotional abuse occurred in 1986 and the early 1990s.
The other warrant - which does not involve Leak - was obtained by the Sheriff's Office as part of its ongoing investigation. Fox said the incident endangered a child between October and December of 1999. The warrant did not list the victim's identity.
The warrants had yet to be filed with the Culpeper County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court as of its closing time Monday afternoon.
Leak is the fourth person who has filed citizen complaints against Shifflett with the Culpeper County Magistrate's Office.
Chad Robison, 29, was the first to come forward and claims Shifflett physically and sexually abused him while he was a student at the school.
Leak's sister Liz Bailey, 35, also a former student at Calvary Baptist Academy, obtained a warrant in late January for charges of sexual abuse.
Last month, another woman, who would have been 10 at the time of the incident, obtained a warrant against Shifflett for repeated spanking with a ping-pong paddle that left bruises.
In addition to his bond hearing, Shifflett is scheduled to appear in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court April 4.
Liz Mitchell can be reached at 825-0771 ext. 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE STORY OF WOODY LEAK
Woody Leak says the highly publicized investigation into Charles Shifflett, pastor at First Baptist Church of Culpeper, prompted him to go public with memories he would rather ignore.
Leak, a 28-year-old Culpeper man, obtained two warrants Monday against Shifflett, becoming the fourth person in less than two months to file child abuse charges against the preacher.
The charges relate to physical and emotional abuse Leak says he endured as a student at Calvary Baptist Academy. As a child, Leak attended the school from third to fifth grade and again in seventh and part of eighth grade.
Shifflett, pastor for 22 years at Calvary Baptist Church until resigning in November, played an active role in the small church school.
Shifflett has repeatedly denied interview requests. His lawyer, Samuel Higginbotham of Orange, did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.
In 1986, Leak was in third grade. During an interview Monday, he said he remembers his mom driving him to the school, then located at what is now the Food Lion in Culpeper Town Mall.
"I remember sitting at the stoplight with my hands shaking and my chest pounding and I couldn't breathe," Leak said. "I'd get to church and dread getting out of the car. I'd get out but part of me stayed in the car while the other part went to church."
At 8, Leak said Shifflett punished him for talking back to his teacher - five spankings from a wooden 2-by-4 left welts on his buttocks.
"He had me lean over the back of the chair and hold onto it with my hands underneath the seat," Leak said. "He hit me once and I cried. He let me be for a while. Then he said, 'If you don't hurry up and move your hands, I'll break your finger.' By the fourth or fifth time I didn't feel it anymore, but each time it was hard enough to move my chair forward."
Leak said Shifflett had several spanking tools, including an old belt, a thick yardstick, the 2-by-4 and two ping-pong paddles, which he allegedly used on children depending on their age and gender.
Leak remembers Shifflett preaching about love but was confused when his pastor would belittle children or hurt them.
When he confronted his mother and church elders with the accusations, Leak said no one believed him.
"I would say something or ask about the preacher and people said I was lying," Leak said. "So I denied it to myself for a long time. I quit trying and I separated myself from what was happening."
In seventh and eighth grade, Leak said, the older boys in school were dismissed from classes around 1 p.m. to split wood. T he church then sold the wood to pay teachers' salaries.
"The preacher would say, 'Oh, you sissy, you baby. Hustle, hustle, hustle,'" Leak said. "He would call me Drip because I wasn't a full-grown Leak."
Leak said the boys would work until about 7 p.m. and then he would have to do his homework, which he sometimes wouldn't finish. For every day his homework was late, the amount of work was doubled. Leak said he was having a hard time working every day, then taking the wood to "the city" to sell on Saturdays and being at church all day on Sunday.
"I was just staying at the church constantly," he said. "I've seen a lot of stuff that I knew wasn't right."
While the boys worked in the woods, Leak said Shifflett would tell them to stand near the falling trees. If they were standing away from the tree, Shifflett would yell at them to stand closer; the first person who ran would be called names.
Leak said the insults and physical abuse led him to self-mutilation and attempted suicide with a shotgun as an eighth-grader.
But when he pulled the trigger, the gun did not fire. Leak reasoned that God was intervening. After returning the gun to its place outside, Leak said he heard it go off.
"Either I got one dud in the box or something was going on," he said.
From that day, Leak said, he didn't care if Shifflett tried to hurt him with the "tree game."
"I wanted an escape to get out of there," he said. "This was the one thing we had that he couldn't take away. If we got hurt, we didn't have to be there."
Leak said in the middle of eighth grade he told his mother he never wanted to go to Calvary Baptist Church again. He enrolled in Culpeper Middle School and graduated from Culpeper County High School.
Now he works as an operator at Continental Teves and said he's adjusted to his life, trying to forget what he experienced at his former church.
But after the investigation began and three others came forward with similar stories, Leak, who is single and no longer attends church but believes in God, said he now hopes for closure.
"I remember what he's done to me," Leak said. "I know what he's done to other kids. He's been doing that to how many more kids? I want that to stop."
Leak encourages other children who feel they could be victims of abuse to come forward and not be scared to tell their stories.
"He was doing it then, he could still be doing it now," Leak said. "Somebody somewhere will help you, just mention it. I agree the case won't be won or lost in the newspaper, but it will be won in the courts."
Liz Mitchell can be reached at 825-0771 ext. 110 or email@example.com.
The Shifflett case
The latest: Pastor Charles Shifflett is being held in Culpeper County Jail on three new warrants obtained Monday related to charges of child endangerment. Four people have now obtained warrants saying they are victims of Shifflett's abuse.
What we knew: The Culpeper County Sheriff's Office began its investigation of Shifflett in October when a church member came to investigators with concerns about how the church was run. Shifflett has been in and out of jail since Jan. 17 on eight charges related to cruelty and injury to children, indecent liberties with children, child endangerment and felonious assault.
What's next: Shifflett has a bond hearing today and a preliminary hearing on April 4 in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
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