Just three days after Judge Greg Stremel issued a gag order in sex cases involving Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church leaders, the Joplin Globe is running a story based on information provided by Robert Evenson, the attorney for Rev. Raymond Lambert, Patricia Lambert, Paul Epling, and Tom Epling. The church leaders are charged with numerous felonies involving ritual sex with children.
The article does not make it clear if the gag order was violated. It does not say when Evenson provided reporter Jeff Lehr with the information, but it was Evenson's side which initially filed the motion asking for the gag order.
Evenson's strategy appears to be to shift the blame to Ethan Epling, the younger brother of Mrs. Lambert and the Eplings, and stepbrother to Lambert:
Robert Evenson said Ethan Epling made statements against the defendants to a McDonald County sheriff's investigator before any of the alleged victims in the case ever came forward with their allegations concerning Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church near Powell.
"There's a story within the story that has not been investigated by the prosecutors or the investigator in this case," Evenson said. "The investigator basically bought what Ethan Epling told him, and then the victims started coming forward."
The Globe account also seems to be bringing into question information provided by McDonald County law enforcement officials:
The attorney for four of the five defendants in a McDonald County sex-abuse case said the prosecutor's office offered more than a week ago not to seek charges against Laura Epling, the wife of one of the deacons charged, if she would agree to testify against the others. She instead was charged on Tuesday.
Earlier in the article, Lehr quotes McDonald County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bagley as saying investigators did not find out about the alleged crime of Laura Epling until last Friday.