Who is the Rev. Charles Keyes?

Carolyn Clark's death has many coming forward to speak of this preacher

The Star Beacon, Ohio/May 15, 2005
By Shelly Terry

As thousands of Ashtabula County residents attend their house of worship today, nearly 300 men, women and children will gather at Apostolic Faith Church, Body of Jesus Christ of the Newborn Assembly in Jefferson Township.

Preaching at the pulpit will be the Rev. Charles Keyes, a man who, up until a week ago, pretty much stayed out of the headlines.

Neighbor Robert Lang said he's never seen anything unusual going on at the church. His only complaint is the loud music they play weeknights and all day Sunday.

A visitor to the church said she believes Keyes best summed up the church's philosophy in a sermon he preached three years ago, Easter Sunday.

"He said, ‘I may do wrong things. I may not always do what is right. But I will always do things according to Charles,'" she said. "At which time, his church members started shouting, dancing and praising his name."

The woman, who wants to remain anonymous because the Carolyn Clark murder frightens her, said she never went back to the church after that sermon.

Then, on May 7, Keyes name made headlines with the beating death of former church member, Carolyn Clark, who attempted to flee from her husband and the influence of Keyes' church with her children.

Clark's husband, Ralph Clark, was arrested a few hours later, and on Thursday, the Ashtabula grand jury indicted him on three murder charges in connection with the killing.

Shortly after Carolyn's murder, her relatives and friends, as well as former church members and local pastors, started coming forward with stories of physical and sexual abuse they suffered or that others suffered at the hands of Keyes and church leaders.

No arrests have been made and prosecutors say there's an on-going investigation. Ashtabula City Solicitor Tom Simon said there's always the possibility that more people were involved in the murder, and that matter is being investigated.

Keyes has refused comment, sending his brother, Robert, as church spokesman. Then, on Tuesday, Robert said he would no longer comment on the advice of an attorney. He did not name the attorney.

However, according to past Star Beacon articles, Charles Keyes took over the congregation in June 2002. His father Bishop Oree Keyes started the church in 1959.

At the time, the church was affiliated with the Apostolic Church of God Holiness, a denomination that traces its roots back to the Azusa Street Mission revival of 1906. Oree Keyes, 82, who's now retired, was the fourth bishop of the denomination, which has its headquarters in Virginia.

Carolyn's landlord and friend for 20 years, Heln Waytes of Ashtabula, said Oree arranged Carolyn's marriage to Ralph. She said arranged marriages continue today under Charles' leadership.

"Ralph doesn't have that much sense, he's kind of slow," Waytes said. "Carolyn was smarter."

The couple had 13 children together throughout 20-some years of marriage, all the while active in Keyes' church.

Once in power, Charles Keyes moved forward with his father's dream of building a new $1.8 million octagonal sanctuary at the corner of Griggs Road and Route 46, according to a Star Beacon article, in Nov. 2002.

In that same article, Keyes said the church had withdrawn from the denomination because of a disagreement over a loan for the church, but they remain faithful to the teachings of its founder.

On Monday, Keyes' brother, Robert, said a loan dispute caused the church to sever ties with the denomination, but that the denomination was "cult-like."

"They were controlling and domineering," he said.

The Revs. Ora Tyus and Robert Lyons, whose churches belong to the denomination, said Keyes left because the board of elders wouldn't make him a bishop. They also said young women came forward in the spring of 2003 with stories of sexual abuse, casting doubts on Keyes' character.

Days after Carolyn Clark's murder, a sworn affidavit from Carolyn, dated March 22, 2005, was discovered, in which she said members of her church beat her with a belt, struck her children and engaged in sex abuse. She also said she feared for her life.

Her older children, as well as two siblings, who remain in Keyes' church, came forward denying all of the allegations. They claimed Carolyn was the one who was abusive.

Waytes said that was a lie.

"Her children were happy to be with her," she said.

Robert Keyes said Carolyn drove her husband to kill her by taking away his children.

Carolyn's son, Terrance, said Monday, "All I know is that my father is the most kindhearted, wonderful man and he would never hurt anyone."

In her affidavit, Carolyn said her husband wasn't himself, but, rather, under Keyes' control.

"Carolyn was saying this was not her husband's behavior," said her attorney, Jane Hawn-Jackson of Ashtabula. "He was under the influence of the cult."

Activists in the Cult Awareness Network (CAN) and the American Family Foundation, two cult awareness organizations, contend anyone can be lured into a cult and newcomers have no clue how rigidly their lives will be controlled, according to a December 1994 article in Cosmopolitan magazine by Paula Dranov.

Mind control, they say, begins with keeping members so busy and so isolated they have no time to question what they're doing or talk to others who might instill doubts, the article said.

Required activities and services often take up most evenings and the entire weekend of cult members, the article said.

Many of Keyes' church members have left their jobs to work at church businesses, according to a June 2004 Star Beacon article.

The church holds services at 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and for four to six hours on Sunday, Robert Keyes said Monday.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.