Pastor’s son experienced guilt and violence

The New London Day, Eastern Connecticut, May 30, 1999
By Kyn Tolson

Christopher Wibberley summarizes the sorrow of his boyhood in one simple statement: “They didn’t come to my graduations — either of them.”

The first marked the end of eighth grade in Griswold. The second was in 1989, when the second-oldest son of Sam and Cynthia Wibberley finished at Griswold High School.

His parents on both occasions, he says, were in England, visiting the Bethel Church parish. “They come and go there so often,” Chris said. “My father sometimes goes for weeks. And then my mother goes to join him. … But I was told then they weren’t there (at the graduations) because I wasn’t ‘right with God.’ ”

Today, Chris is 28, married and on his own. He works as a mechanic. He and his wife, Sonya, have moved out of Jewett City and the apartment Sam selected for them just a short distance from the family home on East Main Street. They live in Norwich and haven’t been to a service at The King’s Chapel since last fall. They’ve heard little from the Wibberleys, but they spent some time during the Christmas season with Max and Virginia Wibberley, Sam’s parents in Canterbury.

Sonya, who is 20, has always been skeptical about the church. She says she was briefly a member only because of Chris. “I think (Sam Wibberley) really believes in Syro. I think the things he does and the people he hurts is because of Syro.” As for the church prophet, Chris said, “I don’t like her. I never did.”

At a support group meeting of ex-parishioners this spring, Chris demurred when it came time to talk about his experiences in the church. “It makes me feel so bad to see how much heartbreak is in this room, and it was caused by someone in my family,” he said to about 25 people gathered in a Jewett City home that Friday evening.

Chris says he was about 5 when he and his older brother, Wayne, were living in Moosup, across the street from the Wibberleys. The couple, then childless, adopted them both. Chris doesn’t know anything about his natural father. His natural mother, to the best of his knowledge, still goes by the name Dorothy Marx and lives outside of Miami. He says he visited her there about 10 years ago when he and the Wibberleys went to see Wayne in prison.

Chris fondly remembers the early years with his adoptive parents. “Everything was good, really good, until they came,” he said of the people from England. He figures he was 10. About that time and in the years to come, he says, life at home was punctuated by accusations, scoldings, sometimes violent episodes. “It was always about sex,” he said. Few in his family, which grew to include two other brothers and two sisters, have escaped the blame, he says. Even his mother, who divorced Sam but later remarried him, was targeted for evil spirits.

Chris tells of one particularly painful incident, when he was “about 18” and still living at home. His father, he says, had instructed an Englishman, Terry Jackson, who was in the United States for an extended stay, to beat him up. The reason, according to Chris, was to rid him of lust for Jackson’s girlfriend.

By both Chris’ account and that from a housekeeper there at the time, the beating in a closed-off, first-floor room was loud and rough. Afterward, Chris says, he wandered down East Main Street, blood on his face and down his shirt. Police Chief Thurston Fields, on duty that afternoon, stopped his patrol car and took him to the Griswold ambulance, Chris says, and the ambulance took him to the hospital. He was treated for a badly broken nose.

Fields, who is retired, says he doesn’t remember anything of that day. Records are difficult to track because the Jewett City Police Department has been disbanded. Chris says no charges were made against Jackson because his father “talked everyone out of it.”

Chris told anyone who asked about his bruised and swollen face that he had hurt himself while working on a car at his father’s tire and auto repair shop.

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