if we fail to find our connection, at least we gain perspective
“…and Lord, God, above all I pray that Justice be done, that your will be served.”
It was my hesitation in the words that served as my first warning sign. Every other prayer in our circle was different. Please don’t let Jim go to jail. Please let the innocent go free. They were all for him. I worded my prayer very carefully. In so many words, I prayed for Karma. If the man was innocent, let him go free. If he was guilty, let him perish.
The following people and events may or may not have changed names, dates or locations. This is incredibly considerate, considering…
Considering the events. Because they happened, and they are as much my story as anybody else involved. Why do I have to censor my own story. Nobody censored it for me when I experienced it.
No, I will do it, because I still love those many who were involved in this story. Their relationships may be hurt based on who reads this, and I wouldn’t want that. There would be no gain. This is my therapy, not my occupation. I don’t need to bring others pain to gain self satisfaction.
Despite what some may tell you.
We drove to Carrollton in a very impressive convoy. Jim, his wife Vanessa, their friends Bonnie and Clyde, and even their children, all asked for us to be there. If Jim could show the judge what a stand up member of society he really was (look at all these Christian College students coming to support me), maybe he could earn some sympathy. It’s all really sadistic when I think about it.
The students consisted of Ebony and Robert…
I went to college in Missouri. That much is true. That much is innocent. I went to a Christian College. That was what I wanted; positive influences to heal a self scarred youth. Self scarred because I can blame no one but myself for how I chose to live my youth. This isn’t the moment for pity. Not just yet…
The people I met at this college were unbelievable. There was so much energy, so much positive emotion toward the glory of God. I could actually feel my soul healing. I made more friends in a month than in my entire life. I honestly didn’t know what to do with them all.
It was while attending a college soccer game (a rare task for yours truly do to an absolute absence of school spirit) that I met them… a collection of girls that would lead to my downfall. One of my downfalls, at least. But that’s another story, for another time.
One was an overenthusiastic mocha colored girl, named Ebony. She is wonderful, and married to a strapping young gentleman from Alaska named Robert. They have a child now, and I wish them all the love and happiness in the world. This much is true.
Ebony introduced me to Christie, a warm smiled photogenic girl wearing a baggy t-shirt, who was crazy enthusiastic that a tall, grumpy looking man with a shaved head was such a huge fan of hugs. That was me. I was tall, scary looking with a recently Bic’ed head, and enjoyed hugs. Christie became a huge part of my life then, and even now is my eternal soul twin, or some other cheesy cliche. If there is anyone who can even remotely understand me, it’s her. She’s been married almost a year now, and I wish them all the love and happiness in the world.
Jen and Ted…
Christie introduced me to Jen, a short girl wearing jeans, a shirt with horses, and cowboy boots. She was dating another fine gentleman named Ted. He has and always will have a trimmed “pastor’s beard,” the mustache-short goatee combo. He too dressed like he rode a horse to school. For him, dressing nice meant wearing a bolo tie, which he did for his first sermon (he was a pastoral major) of which I attended. Jen is now married to a Rodney, and Ted, as of the last time we spoke, was close to engaged to a different Jen, and I wish them all the love and happiness in the world.
The fourth girl I met was roommates with a friend of mine. Though she was at the soccer game, she gave me the cold shoulder the whole time, and I didn’t actually meet her until the following weekend. Her name was Sarah. She had dark red hair, frizzy and curly, with very light freckles. She was the most beautiful girl to ever give me the time of day. It just took her a few days to do so.
Kevin was a tall and well built, and well chiseled, friend of mine. His story is this, he loves God, is on a foreign mission trip as I write this, but is one of the crudest individuals I know. I don’t remember how we met, but I remember we parted ways shortly after he joked about something inappropriate involving my mother. I’m sure whatever you can imagine he said is only almost as bad as what was spoken in actuality. He always made me laugh, but it won’t be a bad thing if we never speak again. Some friends are like that.
My friend Tyler was there as well. My Judas, although I am no Jesus, nor was his betrayal as significant. I confessed to him a sin of mine, and he told the exact people that I wanted this to be kept from. He did it knowing it would hurt me, because he was mad at me for my sin. He was envious as well, that it was my sin, and not his. He discovered something that could have died of old age, but decided to drown it in boiling water, making sure it’s end was quick and painful. It breaks my heart the things that he did, but that is another story for another time.
Jen had a proposition for me. Her parents had a house not an hour and a half away, and it was tradition to gather students and visit for the weekend. They always had something to do, like ride horses, BBQ, or play Xbox with her older brother. To do this, to go to a complete stranger’s house, was was very much out of my comfort bubble. I didn’t do such things.
So I went. I had a car, which helped a lot, because half the people wouldn’t have been able to go if I didn’t own a vehicle, and that includes myself. We planned on leaving right after lunch on Friday, because Fridays were half days for the entire college. This much is true. Plans change, and we ended up leaving a little later, putting us up there after dark. That is when I met HIM for the first time.
Jen’s father: Jim H. He was a slightly portly fellow, with a buzzed head, a peppered pastor’s beard (which was fitting because he was a pastor), and a kind smile. We shook hands, and I liked him instantly. Shortly after I met his wife, Vanessa. I became quite fond of her because she was young, her being slightly younger than forty whilst having children in college. In this way, she reminded me of my own mother, and in doing so became a sort of second mom.
We stayed the whole weekend, and did such things as riding horses with Bonnie and Clyde (friends of the family that owned a large enough property as to keep Jim and Vanessa’s horses), throwing burgers on the BBQ, and playing Fight Night Round Four with her older brother.
It was the perfect getaway. We had study sessions, homemade food, I slept out under the stars on a cot. I learned how to ride horses, and raced Sarah (whom was a semi-pro). Sarah and I eventually became more than friends. She was there with me that day, innocent to the evil that conspired around her.
The courthouse in Carrollton is pretty easy to find, if you ever decide to go. It sits right in the middle of the park, right in the middle of town. If you romanticize a small Midwestern town’s courthouse, you will imagine about what one would find in Carrollton. Much of the rafters, pillars, and railings were carved of not so recently polished wood, and almost everything in the building groaned when touched, walked upon, or sat upon. We sat and watched the proceedings in Southern Baptist pews.
Before I knew sat on the uncomfortable wooden bench, I knew next to nothing about the case, and I knew a lot less about the man. I sat down on the uncomfortable wooden bench (with Sarah, my then girlfriend in hand) thinking that I was sitting in defense of a man who was wrongfully accused by a spoiled brat; by an attention whore. He had been there for her in her time of need, then at the coaxing of her friends, she turned back at him with false accusations of inappropriate behavior. The situation escalated, and now he was in court.
The court sentence had almost no proceedings, so I learned very little. That day was his defense, and his sentencing. His defense consisted of character witnesses, and a time line of “I have been a pastor at X church for X amount of years and have befriended X amount of students (waving behind him at us) who have come out to show their support.” That we had. Some old evidence was brought up again. Evidence of certain 900 number phone calls, certain confessions he had written while under the duress of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Also his plea of guilty.
The girl, the prosecutor, the victim: I can’t tell you her name even if I wanted to. I only remember it was something generic, like Kelly, or Jennifer, Stacy, or Susan. I’m legally obligated to remain quiet about any details regarding her identity. She was fourteen when she was raped by the man sitting a few pews down. She was not present that day, but was replaced by her lawyer (a very poor-spoken state appointed attorney), a social worker, and her entire extended family. I felt bad for them, and felt bad that they though all of us on this side of the courtroom were horrible people. Maybe they didn’t feel that way, though. Maybe they felt the same as I.
The truth started to unfold before our eyes. It was so obvious, at the time, but remember, we were there with a different understanding of the situation. Sarah and I asked Bonnie why the guilty plea, if he was being falsely accused.
“According to the law, when he hugged her, it is considered Sexual Misconduct, so he is pleading the lowest form of guilty that he can.” The web of lies was so thick I wonder now if she actually believed it. Of course I had no idea that she was having sex with Jim, or that Clyde knew about it, and would turn to the bottle instead of facing the situation. She was the first character witness, describing her own shady past, and explaining how false the accusations were, how riddled with inaccuracies the news stories were. Her witnessing, though done with good intentions, probably hindered more than helped. It was uneven, unstructured, and she ended up breaking down crying.
She second character witness, Amy, was shady at best. She was a 19 year old former student of the College, and, upon grievances with her parents, moved in with Jim and Vanessa. In her testimony, she bended the truth while remaining plausible, and kept a confident smile the entire time. Of course I didn’t know that she was having sex with him. Maybe at the time, I don’t know, but certainly within the few years that followed.
His sentence came down to prison time, or four years of no tolerance parole.
He achieved parole, most likely due to me. And the others around me, that were deceived into supporting a monster.
Back at the College I was speaking with Ted about the whole case. He was furious. His girlfriend, Jim’s daughter, had no idea about the things her father had done. She knew about as much as we knew. But her love for her father could never be broken. Even now, I’m worried that these words will jeopardize our friendship. It’s a part of her past I’m sure she wishes to forget.
“How do you think it went?” Ted asked me that night.
“Good. I’m glad he didn’t do jail time. Don’t you think?”
“Yes…” he answered hesitantly. The next part he chose he words carefully. “I believe he got what was best for him, because I don’t think jail will change him.”
It was at this point that my vision of him was a man that had made a few mistakes, being in a position in the community where he couldn’t make those kind of mistakes, and was deeply regretful of all his actions.
Ted continued, “Have you looked at the evidence against him?”
“I’ve only known him a month. Almost everything about this I learned tonight.”
“The confession he wrote while under supposed PTSD is disgusting. I’m very open minded, and I found it shocking.”
“I haven’t read it. In fact, I don’t know a whole lot about this case.”
“Did you read the newspaper article? The one that got him fired from the his last church?”
“It’s online. All you need to do is Google his name.”
I did. And I read.
My prayers went unanswered. Maybe a more spiritual man was needed to pray a louder prayer, to be heard amongst the others, wicked prayers prayed with pure hearts and good intentions. True Justice was not to be found that day.
Perhaps he has asked God for forgiveness. And perhaps God has given it to him. And if God can forgive, I guess so can I.
That is the end of the story, but I have some follow up notes. I Googled his name again, and came up with a few more recent articles. His mug shot was posted right under the large title Voice to Stop Baptist Predators. Apparently he was the poster child for a pedophile in the church. Jim’s no nonsense parole is a lot more flexible that the judge made it out to be. I could fill pages with how often he broke his parole almost immediately after sentencing. Once he attempted to but a house that was too close to an Elementary school. Another time his daughter in law and Amy went though his computer to double check he didn’t have any pornography, a task his parole officer was supposed to do on a regular basis. It was so full of porn that it took them all morning to erase it. They did not tell me everything they found, but told me he was without limits in sexual desires. It was like reading a book in the old testament about entire cities being burned to the ground. They had to purge the straight, the gay, the preteen, the elderly, and the little nude boys made to look like Harry Potter (the one example they chose to share with me). He was not to have unsupervised access to the internet, but of course he had direct access to the internet, and used it most hours of the day. He spent increasingly longer periods alone with Amy. Amy confessed to me the lies she told in in court that day, and it was then that I knew they were sleeping together (confirmed by another source later). Jim would miss lie detector tests, fail the ones he went to, not inform businesses or churches of his registered sex offender status, and move without mentioning it to his parole officer.
Like I said, pages. And he never changed. Nothing was more frustrating than slowly learning how sick he truly was, and watching him not change.
I remember a conversation I had with Sarah.
“You going to Jim and Vanessa’s this weekend.”
“No, I really can’t.”
“Do you care if I go?”
“Sarah, I don’t think you should spend any time alone with Jim right now.”
“Why not?” God I loved her; she was so innocent that the evils of the world had a slow time trying to get at her. I didn’t have the heart to break hers, so I lied, sort of.
“Because of his parole. It wouldn’t be the best situation for either of you if a bunch of girls came over to stay with him.”
“Oh, your right, I didn’t even think about that.”
It wasn’t until a month later, lying next to her on a couch, watching movie credits roll, that I told her the awful truths about Jim. She was in tears by the end. She felt betrayed, and foolish. Everything seemed so obvious once a different lens was taken to the courthouse, the lens that showed Jim guilty.
I have had many relationships end poorly, but none has made me more jaded to love or more closed off to affection than my relationship with Jim.