Ohio, Fla., police recommended charges in case of runaway Muslim-to-Christian convert

Associated Press/March 20, 2011

Police in Ohio and Florida recommended charges be filed against six individuals who helped a teenage Muslim-to-Christian convert from Ohio run away to Florida after she said she feared for her life. Prosecutors have closed the cases without filing charges. The six people and the recommended charges:


- Brian Williams, a Kansas City, Mo., minister who police say drove the girl, Rifqa Bary, to the Greyhound bus station in Columbus on July 20, 2009, but later told police he hadn't seen Bary in a few weeks.

- Fanchon Nicole Hopson, the Columbus mother of a school friend of Rifqa Bary, who police say sheltered the girl overnight, then took her to a relative's house to keep her away from police. Recommended Ohio charge:

- Sgt. John Hurst of the Columbus Police Department's Special Victims' Bureau recommended both be charged with "interference with custody," a low-level felony that prohibits anyone from taking a child from their parent or legal guardian.

The Ohio outcome:

- Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien declined to press charges, basing his decision on a combination of factors, including difficulties doing follow-up interviews.


- Blake Lorenz, pastor of the Global Revolution Church in Orlando and his wife, Beverly Lorenz, who police say helped arrange the purchase of Rifqa's bus ticket and kept her in their home for two weeks.

- John and Wendy Law, members of the Lorenzes' church, who bought the bus ticket and picked Rifqa up from the Orlando bus station and drove her to the Lorenzes' home.

Recommended Florida charges:

- Special Agent David Lee of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement recommended that the four be charged with interference with custody and contributing to the delinquency or dependency of a child.

The Florida outcome:

- Orange and Osceola County State Attorney Lawson Lamar declined to file charges, saying his office can't establish the elements of the charges submitted or that valid legal defenses exist.

Sources: Ohio and Florida police documents, interviews

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