Custody case gives startling look inside controversial church

Star Beacon, Ohio/November 10, 2005
By Shelly Terry

Jefferson -- A former member of a controversial church won custody of his son last week in Ashtabula County Juvenile Court following riveting testimony charging the church’s leader and his son tormented the boy, court records show.

Anthony Miller, who now lives at an undisclosed location, said his 8-year-old adopted son suffered severe abuse at the hands of Charles Keyes and his son Charles "C.J." Keyes Jr., according to confidential court records obtained by the Star Beacon.

Charles Keyes Sr. is the leader of the recently renamed Trinity Apostolic Faith Church on Griggs Road in Jefferson Township.

Miller, who left the church when he and his wife, Beverly Miller, separated several years ago, now has custody of the boy, while his three daughters are in the protective custody of the state, court records show.

On May 4, Ashtabula County Children Services Board notified Beverly Miller, who continues to be active in the church, of an investigation into allegations of physical abuse and extreme forms of discipline against her young son, court records show.

The reports of abuse allege the boy was whipped with a belt and thrown out a window by Charles Keyes Sr. at the church. Witnesses said the mother knew of the abuse and was present during some of the incidents.

A caseworker’s report indicates the boy was hogtied in September 2004 and left overnight on the church floor in front of the altar as a form of punishment for misbehaving at school.

"His face and body were physically forced under cold water in a bathtub in the house next to the church on Griggs Road," according a sworn affidavit by Katie Lane of the Children Services Board, signed May 9, 2005. "(The boy) indicates Charles Keyes Jr., also known as C.J., was the perpetrator of these two incidents."

Children Services is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation into this matter. However, no adults have been charged with a crime.

The court has allowed Anthony Miller to keep his location a secret because his family lives in fear.

Rick Ross, an internationally recognized cult expert, interviewed nearly 20 current and former church members for Children Services. He has said publicly this is one of the most destructive groups he has ever seen.

The May 7 beating death of estranged church member Carolyn Clark, 43, brought the church into the spotlight. Clark was about to leave town with her youngest children when she was killed in her Ashtabula apartment. At the time, she was a material witness in the Miller boy’s child-abuse case, her attorney, Jane Hawn-Jackson, has said. Clark’s husband, Ralph Clark, was charged with her murder and remains in the county jail on a $2 million cash bond. Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald Vettel speculates his trial for murder will be held the first or second week in January.

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