Fortuna woman, ex-Jehovah’s Witness shares story of sexual abuse

By Will Houston

Eureka Times-Standard
POSTED: 05/31/18,

Romy Maple says she can finally walk on the beaches near Table Bluff without fear.

For most of her life, those breaking waves were things Maple said she was taught to fear by the man who repeatedly sexually assaulted, drugged and raped her since she was a 4-year-old girl.

Maple said she was told by her assaulter that if she ever told anyone what he was doing to her, he would throw her into the waves. He pretended to many times and even pushed her into the water once, she said.

“I really thought he was going to kill me,” Maple said in an episode of the new A&E channel series “Cults and Extreme Beliefs” that aired Tuesday.

In an interview with the Times-Standard this week, Maple said both she and her assaulter were part of the same congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Fortuna. She was a fourth generation Witness on her mother’s side.

At the age of 11, Maple said she and her cousin — whom Maple said was one of the man’s several victims — decided to tell one of the Jehovah’s Witness elders about what was happening to them. The elders are men who lead the congregation.

Maple said the elder slammed his fist on the table and called them both liars. From when she was 11 years old up to her current age of 47, Maple said she has begged nearly 20 elders within the Jehovah’s Witnesses to listen to her and do something about what happened to her and the other victims.

None would listen, she said.

Maple said she talked to other victims who are still members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. She said some of these victims have been told to remain silent and to leave it into Jehovah’s hands, according to Maple.

After carrying her experiences with her for most of her life, Maple said she was given the opportunity to share her story at a conference last year in Florida. It was the first time she shared her story before such a large audience, Maple said.

This reporter attempted to contact the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Fortuna Kingdom Hall and contacted the world headquarters in New York state for comment. No responses were provided by Thursday evening.

A&E also stated it contacted Jehovah’s Witnesses, which declined to comment on the allegations, but provided producers a copy of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ position on child protection.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse and view it as a crime. We recognize that the authorities are responsible for addressing such crimes,” the policy states. “The elders do not shield any perpetrator of child abuse from the authorities.”

The friend who had invited Maple to the conference was also an ex-Jehovah’s Witness and was able to connect Maple to the A&E channel for an opportunity tell her story.

After six months of filming across five states, A&E aired Maple’s story Tuesday evening as the second episode of a nine-part series, “Cults and Extreme Beliefs.”

Maple said she moved to Florida to get as far away from the hurt and damage she felt in Fortuna. But after sharing her experience last year, Maple said she is ready to confront her past and moved back to Fortuna in February with a mission.

“I’m going to do everything in my power to create a voice, awareness and show people that there is hope and that there is safe in a world that we’re taught to fear,” Maple told the Times-Standard.

Maple said she is no longer a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it was only a recent decision to leave. She said she officially left the group — which she now considers to be a cult — eight years ago shortly after her mother died. In the A&E episode, Maple said she continued being a Jehovah’s Witness for so long because of a combination of love for her mother and guilt.

After leaving the group behind, Maple said she realized how much her life had been controlled as a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

While she had her daughter, Maple said she felt alone, afraid of everyone and began to have night terrors.

“I got to a point where I wanted to take my life,” Maple told the Times-Standard. “I wanted to walk off my dock and I was dreaming of it.

“ ... I was heartbroken,” Maple continued, her voice breaking slightly.

But after sharing her story at the Florida conference and on A&E, Maple said she “felt a fire in me.”

She said she now wants to seek justice for her children and “validation in my own heart for being systematically ignored my entire life.”

Maple has since created a website and is the process of creating a new organization called “707 SAFE” — which stands for Sexual Assault Fighters Elite — in order to bring awareness of sexual assault within the Jehovah’s Witnesses and create a space where survivors can be validated, share their stories and be able to move on. Her ultimate goal is to create a local conference where survivors can meet.

Maple said she is still weighing the decision of whether to confront her abuser, who she said still lives in Fortuna.

Both Maple and A&E stated they are not releasing identifying information of the man for legal reasons. Although Maple said she wants to bring charges against the man, the statute of limitations for sexual assault cases for victims who are 16 years old or younger is seven years.

“When you get out and you escape and you start thinking for yourself, usually it’s way past seven years,” Maple said. “So then what? You’re out here trying to figure out the world having no idea. I was married at 17. You’re so isolated so you don’t get to learn those fundamentals. So not only do you walk out of this place alone, you’re trying to pick up the pieces alone.”

Maple said she is advocating for legislation that will remove this statute of limitations so that she can file charges against the man and allow other victims to do the same. While Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in 2016 which ended the statute of limitations in certain rape and child molestation cases, the law is not retroactive.

Maple said she and her family moved to Alaska when she was 10. She said she would return to Fortuna to visit the family who took care of her when her mother was fighting Hodgkin lymphoma. It was during one of these trips that she and her cousin attempted to tell an elder what happened to them.

Maple said the distance of her new Alaska home from her abuser made her feel safe enough to tell her brother what had happened who subsequently told their mother. Maple said her mother believed her and filed a report with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, but Maple said elders in the Fortuna Kingdom Hall elders called Maple a liar and worked to protect the man. Maple said the police talked to her abuser as well as the elder that called her a liar and the investigation was shut down.

“They wanted to make this a secret. They wanted to appear on the outside world that they’re this clean congregation, but the secrets that they hold,” Maple said before cutting off.

Since the A&E episode aired on Tuesday, Maple said she has received hundreds of messages of support and at least 75 messages from other sexual assault survivors.

Maple said Humboldt County feels brand new since she has returned. She said she loves the smells, the ocean and taking pictures of the flowers.

“I did come back here with a mission. I came back here to finish my story and finish my book, ‘Shocked into Silence: A Little Girl Forgotten,’” Maple said. “I don’t know where I’m going after this, but it’s all spiraling up from here. Somewhere beautiful. I just want to take everybody with me and give everybody hope.”

The A&E episode can be watched online through your cable provider on www.aetv.com/shows /cults-and-extreme-belief/season-1/episode-2 or A&E On Demand and the A&E app. The episode is set to air throughout this weekend on A&E, with viewers being asked to check their local listings for showtimes.

Maple said she invites other survivors to contact her through her website if they would like to share their stories at www.romymaple.com.

No jail for Jehovah's Witness found guilty of abusing daughter


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Canadian Press

A Jehovah's Witness who sexually abused his daughter was sentenced yesterday to two years less a day to be served in the community in a case that cast a spotlight on how the sect handles sex-abuse complaints within its ranks.

The victim, Vicki Boer, said the sentencing of her father validates her allegations and should force the Christian movement to face up to its shortcomings in handling her abuse complaint.

"For the first time, somebody believed me," Ms. Boer said of the judge. "It makes [the elders] accountable. They've never had to be accountable," she said in an interview from Fredericton.

In June, Gower Palmer pleaded guilty in Ontario Superior Court in Orangeville to one count of sexual assault. Orangeville is about 100 kilometres northwest of Toronto.

However, the court found he had abused his daughter on at least five separate occasions, prosecutor Eric Taylor said yesterday.

Mr. Taylor said he wanted Mr. Justice Emile Kruzick to impose a prison term in the three-year range.

However, in imposing a lower penalty, Judge Kruzick said Mr. Palmer had already been punished by going through a lengthy civil suit. He will also be put on a sex-offender registry and will have to go through counselling.

While identifying sexual-abuse victims is normally prohibited, Ms. Boer wanted the public to know her name. "This is a battle that I'm fighting for not even just myself but for other kids," she said.

Now a married mother of three pre-teen daughters, Ms. Boer said she hoped her criminal and civil battles would force changes to how Witnesses deal with sexual abuse within their ranks.

As part of their beliefs, Jehovah's Witnesses reject anything political or "worldly" that distracts from their focus on Christ and the Second Coming, which they consider imminent.

Ms. Boer, 34, was sexually assaulted by her father between ages 11 and 14.

Rather than notify authorities, she claimed in an earlier civil suit that elders told her not to seek outside help or report the abuse.

She also said they forced her to confront her father to allow him to repent his sins as outlined in Matthew Chapter 18, Verses15-18, a process she said was abusive and traumatic.

In 1998, Ms. Boer sued the Jehovah's Witnesses through the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society for $700,000, saying the abuse and how it was handled by the sect almost drove her to suicide.

In June of 2003, Madam Justice Anne Molloy ruled the Witnesses could not be held responsible for all her pain and suffering.

Judge Molloy found the church had not warned her against reporting the abuse, and that only one elder had wrongly applied sect policy by persuading her to confront her father.

She did find the organization negligent in allowing untrained elders to hold the meeting and awarded Ms. Boer $5,000 in damages.

"They don't follow the [written] policies," said Ms. Boer, who abandoned the faith in the early 1990s.

Spokesman Mark Ruge disputed allegations that the Christian movement tries to deal with abuse away from the prying eyes of outside authorities.

"We abhor any sexual misconduct or abuse, especially when children are involved," Mr. Ruge said from Georgetown, Ont.

"We abide by the letter of the law as far as legal requirements are in reporting to the appropriate child-welfare services."

After the civil trial, Ms. Boer overcame a reluctance to press charges against her father, saying she wanted him held personally accountable for his actions.


Speaker tells her story of growing up in abusive family

By Michelle Pattison
Chief copy editor

October 21, 2005

Author Joy Castro said in her speech Tuesday evening, "I wrote this novel ("The Truth Book") because I needed to process everything that had happened and why I am the way that I am."

Castro read excerpts from her latest book, "The Truth Book: Escaping a Childhood of Abuse Among Jehovah's Witnesses," and embellished information from the book by adding her own comments.

"I read her narrative in the New York Times Magazine ("Turn of Faith"), saw that she lived in Crawfordsville, Ind., and decided that her story is one that the ISU campus could really connect to," Keith Byerman, director of the University Honors Program, said.

Michael Lofton, a sophomore sociology major, said, "She really engaged her audience and I loved the way she painted the scenes so that the audience was there with her. I really felt connected (to Castro)."

Castro's novel, "The Truth Book," tells the story of her childhood, being raised as a Jehovah's Witness and having an abusive stepfather.

An active Jehovah's Witness family from West Virginia adopted Castro early in her life. Throughout her childhood, her religion played a very important part in her entire way of life and her being Castro said.

"There were definitely certain factors that made me question authority, question the validity of the religion and the rationale. Some of their values, such as racial equality and a clean environment, are still things that I believe in, even today," she said.

Castro told stories of her birth mother's decision to put her up for adoption, stories of questioning the beliefs of her religion and stories of abuse of her and her brother.

After dealing with physical and emotional abuse for two years, Castro ran away from her home at the age of 14. She left her life as a Jehovah's Witness behind her.

"I was finally free to question every aspect of my religion and childhood that I wasn't free to question before," she said.

Her abusive stepfather was later arrested and convicted of child molestation.

She went on to college at the age of 16 to receive her bachelor's degree in English at Trinity University and to receive her master's degree and her Ph.D. in English from Texas A&M University.

Castro is currently a professor of English at Wabash College in Crawfordsville. She offers "free courses to at-risk teenagers, low-income adults and victims of domestic violence, (as well as) running the biannual Creative Writing/Creative Teaching Conference for Indiana high school and middle school teachers," according to her Web site, www.joycastro.com.

This event was sponsored by the department of psychology, the department of women's studies, the university honors program, and the Lilly Foundation.

"I've loved being in Terre Haute and ISU. Everyone, from the students to the faculty, has been extremely warm and welcoming," Castro said with a smile.


Y-C hit with second suicide

November 19, 2005

Of the News-Register

YAMHILL - A 17-year-old Yamhill-Carlton High School senior was found dead of hanging Thursday morning by his mother, according to the Yamhill County Sheriff's Office.

Lt. Ken Summers said Cody Earl Monks-Damm hung himself in a barn at the rural family home, northwest of Yamhill at 23880 Mount Richmond Road. He said Cindy Damm discovered the body and called 911 about 11:15, triggering a response from deputies and medical personnel.

Monks-Damm, who had been sent home from school the previous day for disciplinary reasons, is the second Y-C student to commit suicide this school year.

Junior Anndi Huff, 16, was found dead Sept. 12 in her pickup, parked in the school's north parking lot. She had shot herself in the head with a .22-caliber pistol.

Superintendent Steve Chiovaro said Monks-Damm did not have a history of discipline problems. He said the boy had been expected back at school Thursday.

However, like Huff, he had been suffering from bouts of depression. And like Huff, that had raised family concerns, triggering treatment.

"He has been treated for depression issues," Summers said. "His family had been concerned for some time over the struggles he was having. He had undergone treatment."

Chiovaro said he was out of town when he received a call about 1:30 p.m. informing him of the incident. Other school officials, including Principal Jim Orth, had been notified, he said.

The county's crisis control team, consisting of counselors and clergymen, immediately responded to the school and set up a safe room where students come to grieve and talk.

Orth went from room to room, taking each teacher aside to explain what had happened and offer direction on how to break it to students.

Students who wanted to talk to a member of the team were escorted to the library. The team returned to school Friday to continue its work.

"Some people are a little numb, and they're wearing their emotions on their sleeves," Chiovaro said. "It's just a very, very tragic situation.

"The staff, they're good teachers. They care very much about their kids. They take these things very personally."

Orth said Monks-Damm, who had attended Yamhill Elementary School previously, "had his group of friends." But he said the youth was not as involved in extracurricular activities as most students.

"As I walk down the halls, I see kids who are so resilient," Orth said. "They have been so supportive of each other. I don't want to get used to this type of thing, but we know how to support each other.

"It just says so much for our students and the staff. This is why I believe so strongly in the small-school environment. This is why I work in a school this size."

Orth said, "The staff knows the students. They know each other and pull together."

A Memorial Service will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Forest Grove Senior Center, 2037 Douglas St. in Forest Grove. Ed Willer, elder of the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall in Forest Grove, will officiate.

Arrangements are under the direction of Tualatin Valley Funeral Alternatives, based in Hillsboro.


Board denies parole for man convicted of swindling elderly woman

By The Associated Press

DEER LODGE -- A man convicted of helping swindle an elderly woman out of her $6.5 million estate was denied parole after telling the Board of Pardons he "invested in the wrong things."

Darryl Willis, 66, of Helena, a former Jehovah's Witness church elder, is serving a 25-year sentence with 10 suspended. The board said Thursday it would not consider another parole request for three years.

Willis and co-defendant Dale Erickson, 56, of Missoula, were convicted of theft, conspiracy and fraud.

Prosecutors said they convinced Una Anderson that entrusting her fortune to them was in keeping with her religious beliefs. The men then used a complex system of interlocking companies and trusts to drain Anderson's accounts, even charging her a $400,000 brokerage fee for secretly selling her 6,400-acre ranch.

Prosecutors said Willis and Erickson lived in expensive homes, drove luxury cars and hosted trips abroad. They also made numerous loans to church and family members, most of which were not repaid.

"I invested in the wrong things," Willis told the state Board of Pardons. "I invested with the wrong people."

Powell County attorney Chris Miller said neither Willis nor Erickson have taken responsibility for stealing Anderson's fortune.

"They continue to deny that they did anything wrong other than to make bad investments," Miller said.

The scheme was reported to Adult Protective Services in 2001, after a relative noticed that Anderson's household appeared to have been taken over by church members.

Anderson died last year at the age of 103.

Willis has paid $400 of the $6.5 million in restitution owed by him and Erickson.


Man protests Jehovah's Witness teachings

Lowell Sun

WILMINGTON -- Rick Fearon stood outside the Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall just off Main Street last night knowing a daughter who will no longer speak to him would soon be inside.

That daughter, as well as several other family members, stopped speaking to Fearon a few years ago when he left the church and began speaking out about problems he sees in the Jehovah's Witness religion.

A Jehovah's Witness for more than 40 years, Fearon now wants to inform people of accusations that the church does not adequately react to reports of sexual abuse of children, and charges the church's teachings on blood transfusions have needlessly killed Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide.

"I attended this congregation and never realized the problems they had," he said.

Fearon stood across the street from the Kingdom Hall with about a half-dozen others in the hopes they would make those new to the church look into it more deeply.

Those inside the Kingdom Hall were observing The Memorial of Christ's Death, in which they celebrate the death of Jesus on the first full moon of the Vernal Equinox. Those new to the church or not yet part of it often attend the observance, Fearon said. Fearon cites national studies and news reports on a growing sexual-abuse crisis in the Jehovah's Witness religion, which he says has not done nearly enough to keep pedophiles away from children.

He also says the churches previous ban on members getting blood transfusions, and other confusing teachings about accepting blood have led to what he said are thousands of unnecessary deaths.

He was joined by John Harris, of Norwood, who was one of hundreds of clergy-abuse victims who sued the Archdiocese of Boston. Harris, who said he was abused by Father Paul Shanley, said he settled with the archdiocese in December of 2003. He said he is fighting all religions and cults in which abuse is not adequately responded to, and that he is pushing for federal laws to make it easier to prosecute and prevent abuse.

A man who answered the telephone at the Kingdom Hall declined comment last night.


Jehovah's Witness minister accused of videotaping boys in rest rooms and luring others for sex

There are new developments in the case of an accused pedophile from upstate New York: a man who New York authorities believe shot videotapes inside rest rooms at O'Hare.

According to reports, the man accused is J.M. Cano and is 50 years old. A Jehovah's Witness minister, say police in Middletown, New York. Cano is now in a New York jail and charged as a pedophile.

Middletown Police Detective Sergeant Jerry Mishk says investigators have seized four computers from Cano's home which is located on a Jehovah's Witness farming community. Police are getting ready to go over the computers for evidence.

Authorities said that Cano had a video recording labeled "O'Hare" that allegedly included images of children in public bathrooms. Authorities told press that "the video was shot in the rest rooms at the Chicago airport."

Middletown police say told reporters that the Jehovah's Witness minister allegedly used his own video camera to shoot images of himself and then printed them with his phone number in hopes of luring young boys for sex.

Police say the first alleged incident took place on June 17 when Cano allegedly called an 11-year-old victim to his car to give him a naked picture of himself. Police say Cano then asked the child to meet him at another location for sex.

One week later, another alleged incident took place, but the victim's parents called authorities.

Authorities say they found beer, condoms and an ointment of some sort inside the Jehovah's Witness minister's vehicle. Inside, they also found an alleged trail of perversion stretching from Chicago all the way to the Caribbean.

Police say photos of an unidentified teen in sexual positions were discovered, along with videotape that police say Cano shot at O'Hare Airport as he followed boys and men into the bathroom with a hidden camera to video tape them as they used urinals. Cano allegedly targeted six or seven bathrooms for six or seven hours at a time.

When arrested, police found a Jehovah's Witness identification card on Cano. The religious sect confirms his position as a minister, but had no further comment. - News Wire with contributions through the Writer's Lounger.


Mayoral hopeful left Jehovah's Witnesses

Thu, June 8, 2006


London's latest mayoral candidate spent years going door-to-door for a faith that bars members from voting or holding office, a religion -- Jehovah's Witnesses -- whose members, she says, now shun her.

So while most candidates announce how proud they'd be to serve citizens, when Cynthia Etheridge says it, it has an air of authenticity.

"Filing to run for mayor makes me so proud to be a Canadian," Etheridge said.

Etheridge, 39, was 18 when she married a Jehovah's Witness. Over time, she grew frustrated by what she describes as the subjugation of women by men.

Women couldn't give sermons in their place of worship. When she objected to only men handling family financial affairs, she says she was called a "Jezebel."

Four years ago, she left the Jehovah's Witnesses and her husband.

After she left, members of the faith shunned her, some going to the A&P where she worked to stare at her, one threatening to report her to Children's Aid, she said.

A mother of five, Etheridge works weekends at the Cherryhill Village Mall A&P and wakes weekdays at 3:30 a.m. to clean an Exeter Street firm.

She returns home before the first child arrives at 6:30 a.m. to her home day care.

Etheridge says she respects London Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco "because she's a woman and she's strong."

DeCicco has been in politics for years, while Etheridge's only political experience was a failed run in 2003 for the Thames Valley District school board. But while she's a political novice, Etheridge is no stranger to the bread and butter of local campaigns.

"I did 17 years of door-to-door . . . I love talking to people. It's about the only thing I miss from being a Jehovah's Witness," she said.

Etheridge is getting help from a veteran of local campaigns, Stephen Orser, who's a candidate as well, in Ward 4.

The two had a child together but can't marry until her divorce, which has been prolonged, is final.

Etheridge wants to ban pesticides, restore weekly garbage pickup, eliminate board of control and allow police to impound vehicles of men seeking prostitutes and to screen, for crimes, anyone who goes door-to-door.

Also running for mayor are DeCicco, who's seeking a third term, and Arthur Majoor, a longtime military reservist who wants to shrink the scope of city government and reduce taxes.

Londoners vote Nov. 13.


Life's new beginnings

Dennis Webb
Post Independent Staff
September 1, 2006

NEW CASTLE - Nancy Payne and her children look back over the last decade and can count not only their losses, but their gains.

It was 10 years ago today that they endured their biggest loss, the death of husband and father Kurt Payne following burns suffered a month earlier in an accident in Glenwood Springs.

That was followed by other losses, as well. Lost faith in a church whose beliefs led to withholding blood transfusions that Nancy later concluded would have saved Kurt's life. Loss of relationships formed during their time in that church. Lost educational opportunities for children traumatized by their father's death. Lost income from the family provider that left Nancy, previously a stay-at-home mom, to seek work and try to raise her children alone in an expensive valley.

At the same time, the Paynes have found strength they never thought they had, and have become closer as a family. They've gained an appreciation for how much support their community provides even years after tragedy strikes. Today, they also have a new home, the culmination of a dream dating back to when Kurt was still alive.

The Paynes' belief in the good in humanity has helped Nancy to regain some sort of spiritual beliefs as well.

"It's sort of like an awakening, of having new faith in, I don't know what to call it, faith in something greater than yourself or other people," she said. "There have been things that were like, 'Wow, how did that happen?' Things just fall into place," she said.

Nancy spoke while sitting at the kitchen table of her home in New Castle, while flanked by her two youngest children, Cody, 13, and Jesse, 16. Although the home is new to them, it's old in age and needed major renovations, and the Paynes are storing household goods on the front porch to make room for the work that has been going on inside.

In the living room, though, the family has found room to arrange photos of Kurt with his family. The Paynes still have some of his cremated ashes, too, which Nancy said is the subject of joking from some friends.

"They'll say, 'oh, so Kurt made the move OK, huh?'"

While it's dark humor, it fits with the family's choice over the years not to dwell so much on Kurt's passing, and think more about the fun times they had with him.

"It's like you're half crying and laughing at the same time, remembering all the funny stuff," she said.

Still there in spirit

All joking aside, in a sense Kurt has made the move with his family. His name is still in their phone book listing. Nancy looks at her children's appearances and personalities and sees resemblances to their father.

"I guess it's like we feel like he's still with us in some ways," she said.

Kurt also remains present in fond memories of him - the fun dad whom even the neighborhood kids took to. Jesse remembers once his dad was taking him to school in Carbondale and they were running behind schedule.

"He said, 'You're late anyway,' so we went out to the (Village) Smithy and had some breakfast," Jesse said.

"We bought a bunk bed and we put it together," Cody recalled. "Well, he did. I was pretending to."

Cody was only 3 when his father died, and Nancy wonders how many of his memories of his dad are partly a result of stories he's heard over the years. But one memory he's sure of is putting on yellow hospital scrubs and visiting his dad in the burn unit at University Hospital in Denver before he died, and seeing his skin peel off.

"The nurse would say, 'save some for me,'" Cody reflected of a caretaker's attempts to lighten the situation for him.

"She was just trying to make it so you wouldn't be afraid," Nancy told him as they recently thought back on the events of 10 years ago.

Kurt was all but done with flooring work when the accident happened. The occupation was physically hard and exposed him to toxic chemicals. He had landed a full-time job in security and was finishing a remaining floor project on July 30, 1996, in the King Mall in downtown Glenwood Springs when an explosion occurred. Something apparently sparked fumes from solvents or other chemicals used in his work, and he suffered burns to 70 percent of his body.

"I think the worst part is, actually at the time, I never thought he would die. He was 32 years old, strong as an ox," Nancy said.

She thinks that's one reason she went along with the tenets of her church at the time, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and didn't allow Kurt blood transfusions.

After he died, the autopsy pointed to organ failure due to lack of oxygen, Nancy said.

"He had no blood to carry oxygen in his body. ... I know for a fact that if my husband had had blood transfusions he would be alive today. He would have been scarred, but you know what, that would have been OK with everybody," she said.

University Hospital has a bloodless clinic for patients who want to use alternatives to transfusions. But Payne said a doctor was frustrated in Kurt's case by the church position.

"He knew he could save his life but he felt like he was doing it with his hands tied behind his back," she said.

Nancy, who had been brought up as a Jehovah's Witness, was constantly in the company of church officials in the hospital and now regrets that she didn't go against their wishes and allow a transfusion.

"I constantly live with that burden of what could we have done differently," Nancy said.

But she added, "That's behind us and we can't undo it."

Yet the question lingers not only for Nancy but for her children, who still think about the role of church officials in keeping the hospital from taking actions that might have saved his life.

"If none of them were there, I'm sure after a couple of days of thinking you would have been like, yeah, do it," Jesse told his mom as they revisited their memories surrounding his death.

Church officials, contacted for this story, released a statement (see information box).

Nancy said she tries not to have hard feelings over her husband's death.

"I don't hold any person responsible for what happened, but I just realized that a manmade teaching cost my husband his life. And logic would tell anybody else or me now that if God has given us the capacity to be smart enough to develop the science to take care of people when they're that severely injured, why wouldn't we take advantage of that?"

Life after loss

Losing her husband in such circumstances eroded Nancy's beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness.

"I struggled with how do you have any sense of faith after something like that happens?"

In withdrawing from the church, she said, she lost the support network of a church membership that tends to keep to themselves. For years, even her relationship with her mother, also a Jehovah's Witness, was strained. But Nancy said it later improved when her mom realized she didn't want miss out on spending time with her grandchildren.

After being part of what was an insular group of believers, Payne suddenly was not just widowed but on her own, she said. But in losing one community, she became better acquainted with a greater community of concerned valley residents who have been willing to help.

"All the people I know in the valley now, I missed out on that before. I think they're just great people here, they're always willing to extend a helping hand, and I'm just really thankful that we live here," she said.

Despite the rising costs of living in the valley, Nancy was committed to bringing up her children here. She worked a series of jobs, selling cars and furniture, waitressing, even trying to take over Kurt's flooring business, a move that upset her children and ended when she seriously cut her hand. She has been at Mason & Morse in Carbondale for six years, where she works in marketing. She also has begun driving a school bus to help make ends meet.

Mason & Morse assisted her in her home purchase, including waiving her share of the commission fees. Others in the community have contributed time toward the home's renovation.

"I really wanted this really bad because no matter where my kids ended up living I wanted a place here in the valley where Kurt and I started our family," Nancy said. "I wanted a place where they could come back to."

Growing up without their father has been hard on the Payne children, including in school.

"Going to school and dealing with school was like the last thing I wanted to do" when Kurt died, Jesse said.

Nancy is proud of how her children have coped in the face of struggles in school and other challenges. Colette, 24, and Jeremiah, 20, are now out in the working world. Jesse is no longer in school but has been busy helping in the renovation of the Payne's new home. Cody attends Riverside School in New Castle.

Nancy thinks Kurt would be impressed with the way their children have turned out.

"These kids are really, really bonded. I mean, all families are but I think maybe these guys will have something special for years to come," she said.

The church's position

When contacted for an interview about its position on blood transfusions, the Carbondale congregation of the Jehovah's Witnesses released the following written statement:

"Jehovah's Witnesses actively seek medical care when needed, and many work in the health-care field. They accept the vast majority of treatments available today. Christians are commanded in the Bible at Acts 15:19, 20, 28, 29 and Genesis 9:3, 4 to "abstain from blood." Since the Bible makes no clear statement about minor blood fractions or the immediate reinfusion of a patient's own blood during surgery, a medical process known as blood salvaging, the use of such treatments is a matter of personal choice. Jehovah's Witnesses accept reliable nonblood alternatives, which are increasingly recognized in the medical field."


Couple's faith tested


28 September 2006


THEY were once devoted believers - but a husband and wife say their faith has been tested and their family torn apart after they were thrown out of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Members of the Bradwell congregation - including their only child, a daughter - are now forbidden from speaking to David and Brenda Gibbons since they were forced to leave.

They were thrown out by a judicial committee at Great Yarmouth Kingdom Hall in July, after writing a letter containing personal criticism to another member of the congregation.

Declared “revilers”, people who speak ill of others, the decision to “disfellowship” the couple was upheld on appeal to the Jehovah's Witnesses' British branch in London.

They have not seen daughter Leah, 25, since being forced to leave the organisation.

Retired merchant seaman Mr Gibbons, 62, and Mrs Gibbons, 64, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, are devastated by the experience.

Mrs Gibbons told the Mercury: “It is heartbreaking that Leah is not allowed to speak to us because of a scriptural point of view.

“I do regret joining the Jehovah's Witnesses because then we would still have our daughter.”

“We were renowned for being a close family; to love a child who has died is bad, to lose a child who does not want to talk to you is quite heartbreaking.”

“People need to know the consequences of stepping out of line - so many families have been split up and now we have lost a dear daughter.”

She added: “No religion should impose that on people, but there is very precise manipulation of the way believers think and feel.”

Jehovah's Witnesses are instructed to shun expelled members, who are allowed to attend services and receive spiritual guidance, but cannot be welcomed back into the congregation until they apologise for their actions.

Mr and Mrs Gibbons are adamant they have done nothing wrong and cannot return to the movement that was, until recently, central to their lives.

Mr Gibbons said: “The elders could have helped resolve the situation, but I believe they wanted me out because I was outspoken and this was an opportunity to remove me.

“Our Christian brothers and sisters would like to speak to us, but are fearful of what action might be taken against them.”

“We were loved by so many people, but now when they see us in the street they turn away The body of elders has created a climate of fear amid the congregation, which is divided into cliques.

“Even if I had committed a crime I would expect my family's support, but Brenda and I have done nothing wrong and yet we are completely isolated.

“What is the good of any religion that takes your daughter away from you and does what has been done to us.”

Mr Gibbons was stripped of his position as a ministerial servant in June; he and his wife had been worshipping with the Gorleston congregation until their expulsion.

Worshippers are not told why a member is removed and Mr Gibbons, who had managed the accounts at Bradwell Kingdom Hall, feared they would think he had been thrown out for stealing money.

The last few months have been an ordeal for the couple after losing contact with a daughter they had been so close to and who encouraged them to join the Jehovah's Witnesses 14 years ago.

All they are left with now is memories of their time with Leah and a gallery of family photos at their home in Kingfisher Close.

Mr Gibbons added: “It was really Leah who got us into the church as she had a friend at school who was a Witness.

“Her father came round to visit us; we had a Bible study and joined after going along to worship for a year.”

“We were renowned for being a close-knit family and well known for riding around together on a tandem cycle. We shared so many jokes and good times.

“This is tearing us apart, we were always so full of fun, laughter and life but now just do not feel whole anymore.”

The Gibbons' daughter, Leah, refused to talk to the Mercury when she was approached, and Trevor Gaskin, the presiding Jehovah's Witness also declined the comment.


Local artist shows off Career

Online Exclusive

Emily Hohenwarter

Posted: 11/3/06

Native New Orleanian Jeffrey Cook presented a slideshow of his art to the Tulane community Wednesday in the Woldenberg Art Center. Cook, a mixed media sculptor, showed pieces from different phases of his lifetime as an artist.

Cook studied art at Xavier University and the San Francisco Art Institute.

Growing up as a Jehovah's Witness, Cook was limited in his experiences and turned inward to expression through art.

"I grew up in that religion, I had no choice. We were always told that anything worldly was paganistic," Cook said. "When I was growing up, I kept to myself; I made my own toys. It was kind of healing, I think. I kept one of those toys and have shown it."

Cook's art is characterized by found pieces, like bottle caps, nails and driftwood. For a year, he traveled Europe dancing with a company, but returned to New Orleans to pursue his art.

"For a year I traveled Europe, but I found myself not interested in dancing, but taking stuff, like rocks, from every city I visited," he said. "When I got back to New Orleans, I loved the stuff on the railroad tracks, all that rusted stuff.

"My backyard was my studio, my workplace and my shop. Tchopitoulas Street was a great place to shop," Cook said.

Along with using primarily found objects, Cook also makes his own pigment and paper.

"The work is very deceptive. I can make things look old, look metal, look wood, look like African art," Cook said.

Cook's creative process involves walking around the city to look art materials.

"I would go out by the river, it's amazing what you can find, not just driftwood," he said.

Most pieces are given an old look.

"I was making very colorful pieces, then I would come back and destroy them. That makes it look old. I'd put them in the shower, then the oven, then the shower, then the oven, and rub them till the color was gone," Cook said.

Over the years, Cook's art has gone through different phases, from a bird phase to child-like phase using alphabet blocks, to a dark phase. The inspiration for his art has always come from life experiences.

"There's a lot of stuff I just don't talk about, but channel into my work," he said.

Early in his career, Cook knew he was meant to be an artist.

"The work started changing. I wasn't in it to sell. It wasn't about the fame. I just wanted to make art."

Cook has had many showings, including exhibits at the Contemporary Arts Center and, most recently, at Loyola University. He will be the guest artist today at Riverday on the Mississippi.


Jehovah's Witness in door to door sex assault scandal

When a Kitchener (Ontario, Canada) man inadvertently discovered his teenage daughter's diary in his basement, he was shocked to see it contained the name of a former elder at the family's Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.

The name Claude Martin was written in bold text, the Kitchener man told a judge yesterday at Martin's trial for sexually assaulting that girl and another girl who attended Martin's Jehovah's Witnesses sect.

Martin, 76, allegedly touched the man's daughter with his hand between January, 2001 and December, 2002. He allegedly touched the other girl with his penis between January, 1988 and December, 1989.

The man's daughter testified that Martin touched her buttocks with his hand and put his finger on her vagina during a Saturday morning door-to-door sales visit to a home.

The girl said they were standing on a landing inside the front door when the householder had gone downstairs.

She and Martin often made the door-to-door sales visits to attempt to gain members to the sect of Jehovah's Witnesses. Her parents were nearby in a car with other sect members making similar visits in the area.

After the parents read the content of the diary they did not know what to do, he said. Several Jehovah's Witness elders heard about the allegation and visited their home.

The girl's father said, "The impression we were left with was pick up the carpet and sweep it under, and carry on with your life, ... We wanted to know there was going to be something done in the organization."

The family had attended Martin's Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall for over ten years before leaving because of stress long before they found the diary.

The girl's father said outside court, "The only thing I have to say negative is how they tried to sweep it under the carpet."

The girl, who is now 16, told the Crown prosecutor that she never told her parents about the alleged sexual assault because, "It was embarrassing and private."

After she and her parents reported the alleged incident to police in 2005, the girl said her parents were told about a second alleged complainant. That girl was allegedly standing up against a counter when Martin came up behind her and rubbed his pelvic area against her, she said.

When the trial continues, the Crown will argue that the judge should admit a statement he said Martin made to police. Based on the statement, Poland will argue Martin engaged in prior discreditable conduct with yet a third female.

The trial continues on Dec. 5.

Dianne Wood of the Record and other reporters contributed to this article. Submitted via the Writer's Lounge.


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