Protection ordered in Johnston case

Neosho Daily News, Missouri/September 18, 2006
By John Ford

Pineville -- A full order of protection was granted to one of George Otis Johnston's accusers this morning in McDonald County Circuit Court.

McDonald County Associate Circuit Court Judge John LePage granted the request made by a 17-year-old woman that Johnston not have any contact with her. LePage also stipulated that Johnston not have any contact with minors under the terms of his bond.

Johnston - whom the girl said she referred to as “Grandpa” - faces one charge of child molestation in McDonald County, and 17 charges of statutory sodomy in Newton County. He is to appear for a preliminary hearing on eight of the Newton County charges, and an arraignment on the other seven, at 1:15 p.m. this afternoon in Judge Greg Stremel's Newton County Division II courtroom.

In testimony presented this morning, the woman said while she was in Florida earlier this summer, Johnston spoke with her via cell-phone. The woman said she was threatened that if she filed charges against Johnston, he would “do all he could to dig up dirt” against her and members of her family.

Asked by defense attorney Andy Wood how the contact was made, the woman said she was talking to a friend on the cell phone, and Johnston was present. She said the friend handed Johnston the phone, and that was when he allegedly made threats against her and her family.

Johnston is the pastor of Grandview Valley Baptist Church North in rural Granby. He is one of five church leaders in two counties charged with sexually abusing girls. All five have entered not guilty pleas and are free on bond.

The woman testified that Johnston sexually abused her from the age of 8 until she left the commune in April.

According to a probable cause statement filed by investigator Mike Barnett, a deputy with the Newton County Sheriff's Department, the woman said when she was 12, Johnston told her he was “ordained by God to fulfill her needs as a woman,” adding “that is she would have sexual intercourse with him that she would remain a virgin and remain pure.”

The woman's 20-year-old sister has alleged Johnston touched her sexually while he was supposed to be tutoring her in algebra between 1998 and 2001.

Dwayne Allen, an investigator with the Newton County Sheriff's Department, said in a probable cause statement these latest allegations came to light while interviewing four children Aug. 21 at the Children's Center in Joplin in connection with a previous child sex abuse investigation against Johnston.

Afterward, he said, an older sibling of one of the children gave a taped statement as to her sexual involvement with Johnston.

The woman told investigators the abuse started in 1997, when she was 11 years old. Johnston allegedly touched the girl's bare breasts and genitals during each tutoring session, the probable cause statement reads.

“[She] said when Johnston would touch her, he would tell her that it wouldn't make her impure, that it would make her holy and she would remain pure as a virgin, even after she married.”

The girl said she never allowed Johnston to have sexual intercourse with her but allowed him to touch her as he told her this would make her closer to God.

Johnston's nephew, Raymond Lambert, pastor of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, is one of the four accused McDonald County church leaders. Also facing charges are Lambert's wife, Patty, and her brothers Paul and Tom Epling. Patty Lambert is also Raymond Lambert's step-sister, and the Epling brothers are his step-brothers.

The Lamberts and Eplings are to appear at 1 p.m. Oct. 2 for a preliminary hearing before LePage. On Friday, defense attorney Robert W. Evenson filed a motion to prohibit those involved in the case from making statements to the news media. No ruling on this gag order has been made at the present time.

Johnston's church is an offshoot of the McDonald County congregation and the two churches occasionally have joint services, investigators have told the Daily News.

The 20-year-old woman reportedly left the Granby church to join the McDonald County congregation, as she was assured the acts Johnston performed on her were not part of that church's practices, according to Newton County Assistant Prosecutor Bill Dobbs. When the woman found out differently, she and her husband left that church as well. She and her husband left the Grand Valley congregation in April.

The 17-year-old woman also testified today that Johnston struck her on the right side of the face earlier this year, before she left the Granby congregation in April. She said the incident took place at her home at the Granby commune, but she didn't tell her mother because “I didn't think she'd care.”

Johnston is the step-father of her mother's ex-husband, the woman said.

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