While charges have been dropped against a McDonald County pastor facing eight counts of child sexual abuse, the case against his uncle, who faces 17 such counts in Newton County, will go on.


 

While charges have been dropped against a McDonald County pastor facing eight counts of child sexual abuse, the case against his uncle, who faces 17 such counts in Newton County, will go on.

Six felony counts of child sexual abuse against Raymond Lambert, 53, were dropped Tuesday morning. In a statement released by office of McDonald County Prosecutor Janice Durbin, the alleged victims, because of “incessant publicity” in the case, were forced to decide “that they can no longer subject themselves or their families to the ongoing scrutiny and pressures of a very public proceeding.”

“Victim testimony is crucial and necessary to prosecute cases such as these,” the statement read. “Therefore, after consultation and discussion with the victims, the state has agreed to dismiss the charges.”

A grand jury indicted Lambert in February after charges were dismissed against the pastor in November, charging him with four counts of second-degree child molestation and two counts of statutory sodomy. Charges of statutory sodomy and sexual abuse were dropped in April.

This is the second time Durbin has dropped the charges citing reluctance of victims to testify as a reason. Charges were earlier dropped against Lambert’s wife, Patty, her brothers, Tom and Paul Epling, and Tom Epling’s wife, Laura. Lambert is a step-brother to the Epling siblings.

The abuse incidents reportedly took place between February 1995 and April 2004. Lambert is the pastor of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, located near Powell.

Meanwhile, Bill Dobbs, Newton County assistant prosecutor, said the case against Lambert’s uncle, George Otis Johnston, will continue.

“We’re busy ramping up for the trial in July,” Dobbs said. “I will meet very soon with the alleged victims and their families, but at this point in time, I don’t see any reason not to go forward.”

Johnston pastors the Grandview Valley Independent Baptist Church, a spin-off of his nephew’s congregation. A five-day trial will begin July 14 in Vernon County on a change of venue from Newton County.

In 2006, a young woman alleged Johnston had molested her as a child, beginning when she was 8 years old and continuing until she left the Granby church shortly after her 17th birthday.

Later, her older sister came forward with allegations that Johnston had also sexually abused her when she was a child. She testified some of the alleged contact took place while the pastor was supposed to be tutoring her in algebra.

Dobbs said he has been following the McDonald County case, and could emphasize with the decision to drop the charges.

“I understand the circumstances,” he said. “This has gone on a long time and it’s arduous for the alleged victims as well as for the alleged defendants. I can see where the prosecutor would ask that the victims go on with their lives.”

Neosho Daily News