Where the television stations can bring an issue to more people, even their biggest stories are usually limited to only a couple of minutes. Newspapers have the ability to go in depth on a story.
Spellman, an artist with words, gives the reader a gripping description of the isolation of this remote compound and how that isolation may have enabled church leaders to conduct illegal sex rituals with children for decades, with his opening paragraph:
The final leg of the journey to Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church is a lonely dirt and gravel road snaking through wooded slopes into a remote pocket of McDonald County.
The journey halts at a locked gate, behind which is said to sprawl a 100-acre property that includes a farm, a Christian academy, a cemetery, a kennel and a number of homes. Behind that gate, authorities allege, the church's pastor and three others sexually molested several children to "prepare (their bodies) for service to God," according to court records.
The Globe, as this blog has noted numerous times, was late in coming to this sordid story of accusations of ritual sex with children and incest. As far as I can tell, (with my band practicing on Tuesday nights, I have been missing the 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts on that day each week) the news of charges being filed against the church's minister, Raymond Lambert, his wife Patty, and her brothers (and his stepbrothers) Paul and Tom Epling first surfaced nine days ago in The Turner Report and was followed very quickly and expertly by KOAM, KODE, and the Neosho Daily News.
It wasn't until Wednesday, eight days after the charges were revealed that the Globe, which for the most part has written off McDonald County after the departure of ace reporter John Hacker, jumped into the story, perhaps buoyed by the spread of the charges into Newton County, where a minister purportedly related to Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church minister Lambert is charged with eight counts of statutory sodomy.
Give Derek Spellman credit. When he jumped in, he took over the story. Where McDonald County residents did not speak to Associated Press reporter Marcus Zabel, according to Zabel's account, they did speak to Spellman, and for the first time, a more complete picture of this alleged cult began to emerge.
While Spellman took the McDonald County end of the story, the Globe's go-to reporter, Jeff Lehr, handled the story from the Newton County side.
Spellman's story touched briefly on the church's founder, Cecil Epling. Hopefully, Globe reporters will continue to delve into this story and find out more about the late Mr. Epling, since the church has reportedly deified him long before his death in an automobile accident.