Friday, November 16, 2007

Charges may be refiled in McDonald County sex cult case

McDonald County Prosecuting Attorney Janice Durbin finally broke her silence concerning the dismissal of all felony sex charges against members of the Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church.
Joplin Globe ace reporter Jeff Lehr elicited the following information from Ms. Durbin:

-The case was dismissed due to "technical" reasons, according to Ms. Durbin, and not because of lack of cooperation from complaining witnesses.
-Charges may be refiled.
-Ms. Durbin fired the assistant prosecuting attorney who had been handling the case and plans to add a new assistant prosecutor- the attorney who represented Laura Epling, one of the defendants:

Durbin said she recently committed to hiring Sherrie Hansen to replace her part-time assistant prosecutor, Ray Gordon, when he leaves as planned at the end of the year. She said she intends to keep the full-time assistant prosecutor position vacant through the end of the year.

Durbin also acknowledged that the hiring of Hansen could have affected her office’s handling of the church sex-abuse case because Hansen at one time represented Laura Epling. But, she said, as long as Hansen herself does not handle the case, her office might not need to be disqualified.

She said the sex-abuse case remains under review.

It appears Ms. Durbin has rightfully been receiving a considerable amount of heat for her decision to drop the charges and the extraordinary amount of time it has taken her to talk about that decision. This interview does not appear likely to end that criticism.

Initially, church pastor Raymond Lambert, his wife Patty, and sister-in-law Laura Epling had been charged with felonies in connection with ritual sex with children. Charges had been dropped earlier against Patty Lambert's brothers (and Raymond Lambert's stepbrothers) Tom Epling and Paul Epling.

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