Police: Wife, kids feared evangelist

News-JournalOnline.com/April 29, 2005
By Lyda Longa

Deland -- The little white house with the brown trim on North Orange Avenue is unassuming enough.

Neighbors said the family members are friendly and helpful. But inside was a household of fear and unspeakable abuse, police said.

This was the house where Charles Michael Balfe, a self-described Internet evangelist, and his family lived. It was also the house, according to graphic arrest affidavits released by DeLand police Thursday, where children were repeatedly raped and molested, and Balfe's wife, Rachel, was often beaten.

"He used these actions as discipline and because he was a controlling personality," said DeLand police Cmdr. Randel Henderson. "It was his interpretation of the Bible."

Balfe was arrested early Wednesday at the lumber company where he worked. He was charged with capital sexual battery on a child younger than 12, lewd and lascivious molestation on a child younger than 12 and domestic violence.

Detectives began investigating the home in early March after someone called the Department of Children & Families in February.

For years, the 60-year-old suspect and his family had a Web site where he preached about morality and spirituality, discussed the notions of heaven and hell and the end of mankind.

But inside the house, where most of the windows are covered with plywood, the living conditions were far from heavenly, investigators said.

The pictures painted by the arrest affidavits portray a home where Balfe ruled by fear and humiliation, enforcing his will through sexual abuse and physical violence.

According to reports, boys and a girl were sodomized and forced to perform oral sex on Balfe routinely for at least four years, starting in 2000.

Balfe also beat his wife regularly during that time, especially when she questioned his treatment of the children, according to reports. Balfe would respond to his wife's criticisms by slapping her in the face, police said.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal is not naming the children police say were abused by Balfe because it is a sexual abuse case.

One of the most shocking sexual assaults, according to investigators, came after Balfe became enraged because the youngsters took snacks from the refrigerator without his permission.

The incident is mentioned repeatedly in the affidavits because the youngsters told police they were so traumatized by what was done to them.

While Balfe's wife witnessed the acts, she told investigators she feared for her safety because her husband had convinced her and the children that he "could take any one of them out," and that "no one would ever know."

The suspect told his family he had Mafia connections and he could dispose of them quickly if they ever told anyone what he had done, police said. He was also heavily armed, keeping an arsenal of five rifles and 20 to 25 handguns in the residence.

The youngsters told detectives he practiced with the guns regularly at a range and never left the house unarmed.

Balfe also apparently saw everything that happened inside the house, even when he wasn't there, police said.

Several surveillance cameras were installed throughout the residence because Balfe wanted to make sure "no one was doing something they weren't supposed to," police said.

Neighbors on North Orange, lined with small, older houses and some industrial businesses, were shocked. A manager at his job refused to comment.

"I hope none of this is true," said Mike Carson, who can see Balfe's back yard from his living room. "He was a nice guy. He let me hook up to his electricity during the hurricanes."

Kathleen Tabor, who lives across the street from the Balfes, said the family kept to themselves and waved to her whenever they were outside.

"Their oldest boy did some work for me, you know cleaning the yard," Tabor said Thursday. "And he (Balfe) always said hello when he came from work every day. His wife looked very homelike."

Cmdr. Henderson said Balfe's arrest has angered the people who knew him.

"This was a man of trust who walked amongst the community," Henderson said. "That scares people."

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