Associated Press reporter Marcus Kabel has been all over the sex charges involving members of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church in McDonald County and he has the beat on the latest development in the case.
Apparently, McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Janice Durbin, who dropped charges against church pastor Raymond Lambert, Lambert's wife, Patty, and their sister-in-law, Laura Epling, is saying she may refile those charges in 2008:
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, welcomed the decision to refile the case after earlier calling the decision to drop it inexplicable.
"The road to justice for child sex abuse victims is often rocky but usually, when victims can hang in there, some closure and healing and prevention happens at the end," Clohessy said.
Wendy Murphy, a victims' rights attorney, author and former prosecutor who teaches at the New England School of Law, said that dropping a case so close to trial when witnesses are still cooperating is "extraordinary."
The dropped charges had fueled some criticism from local law enforcement and concern by a state representative about how the prosecutor's office has been run since Durbin was elected to her first term a year ago.
Durbin said Thursday that she had to drop the charges because of a scheduling problem and that she always had planned to refile the case.
"It wasn't the facts of the case. It wasn't the witnesses. It was a technicality, a scheduling issue," she said in an interview at her Pineville office.
Durbin said she is "very actively" working on refiling the case.
It is amazing that it took Ms. Durbin this long to begin talking more specifically about the reasons why she dropped the charges, which involve ritual sex with children. Judging from Kabel's article, the law enforcement community in McDonald County has not been thrilled with her job performance:
Durbin's explanation comes amid criticism from local law enforcement and questions from Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, whose 131st District includes much of McDonald County.
Detective Jeff Sutherland wrote to the state's highest disciplinary body for attorneys this week to complain about Durbin's handling of two cases, including a plea bargain for a man charged with repeatedly molesting his 12-year-old stepdaughter.
The Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, under its confidentiality rules, cannot confirm receipt of a complaint or whether it is investigating.
Ruestman said she had received a copy of Sutherland's letter. The detective's complaint and the dropped church case raise concerns about how a new prosecutor is running the office, she said.
Durbin said she had not heard from Ruestman or the disciplinary office. She declined to comment on the plea deal with Jeremiah Flanary, 33, who faces sentencing in January after pleading guilty to two counts of statutory sodomy.
The deal would give him five years probation and a 120-day sex offender program in prison. The maximum term for each count is seven years in prison.
One of the best jobs in delving into the background of this case was done by National Public Radio. Its report was noted in the Dec. 15, 2006, Turner Report.