Saturday, January 19, 2008

NEWS: Charges refiled in Ozarks child abuse case

Charges refiled in Ozarks child abuse case

PINEVILLE, Mo. — A high-profile child abuse case in an isolated Ozarks religious community took another sudden turn when the prosecutor who dropped all charges a week ahead of trial last month refiled the case against the church's leader. Court records showed Raymond Lambert, 52, was charged with four counts of second-degree child molestation, three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy and one count of sexual abuse. The charges were filed Monday with as little fanfare from the prosecutor as when similar counts were dropped a month ago. Lambert had pleaded not guilty to the original counts filed in August 2006. Lambert's attorney did not return a phone call for comment on the renewed charges. Lambert is scheduled to be arraigned Dec. 17. Lambert is the pastor of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, a commune founded by his stepfather in the 1970s. At its peak, about 100 people lived on and near the church's 100-acre farm in rural McDonald County, in southwest Missouri.

Two women, now 20 and 29, started the case last year by alleging they were molested and abused by Raymond Lambert from the ages of 12 to 16. The case drew national attention when the original charges were filed in August 2006 alleging that Lambert, his wife, Patty Lambert, and two of her brothers abused girls from the congregation over a period of many years. Lambert's sister-in-law Laura Epling was later charged with helping abuse one girl. All pleaded not guilty, and the charges against the two brothers were dropped due to statute-of-limitation issues.