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Man accused in rape admitted paternity

Last modified: 6/19/2010 12:00:00 AM
When 16-year-old Tina Anderson put her daughter up for adoption in 1998, a former Trinity Baptist Church member who is now accused of raping her admitted to being the father, court records show.

Ernest Willis, now 51, told a social worker that he 'admitted paternity' and expressed support for the adoption, according to a memo produced by the social worker. He agreed to release his social and medical background to his newborn daughter's adoptive parents, but said he would not like to receive pictures or future information about her as she grew up, wrote Tracy Bray, a social worker with Bethany Christian Services in Colorado, where Anderson had moved.

'The circumstances surrounding (Anderson's) pregnancy involved some complications in that (Willis) is 39 years old while (Anderson) at the time of conception, was only 15 years old,' the memo said. 'He is married, with three children, and (Anderson) had been a babysitter for his children. He has accepted responsibility for the incident and (Anderson) has not pressed charges.'

Court records detailing the baby's birth and adoption were created as part of a process where Willis and Anderson gave up their rights to the child. The files are under seal in the juvenile division of Denver District Court, but Anderson released her copies to the Monitor. The Monitor generally does not identify victims of sexual assault but made an exception in this case at Anderson's request.

Willis, of Gilford, was arrested by the police last month, charged with four felony rape counts accusing him of forcing himself on Anderson while she lived in Concord. They met at Trinity and became close when Anderson confided in him about a previous, unrelated sexual assault.

In criminal complaints, the police accuse Willis of raping her in the summer of 1997 while offering her a driving lesson. He raped her again at her mother's Concord Gardens apartment, the police said.

When she became pregnant, Anderson alerted her mother and the church's former pastor, Chuck Phelps, who jointly arranged to move her away from the state. Anderson was kicked from the church's religious high school and forced to apologize before the congregation for what the pastor described as her role in the rape, she told the police. Despite her desire to live with grandparents, she told the police that Phelps arranged for her to live with a Baptist family in Colorado.

In Colorado, Anderson told a judge she had no other option but to give the child up for adoption because of her age and a desire for her daughter to be raised by two parents, court records show.

'I am 16 years old and don't feel that I could give my child everything that she needs and deserves,' Anderson wrote by hand on adoption paperwork in March 1998, the month her daughter was born.

Anderson said the wife of a pastor in Colorado accompanied her to the hospital, according a statement she gave to the Concord police. In an interview after Willis's arrest, Anderson said she was told by members of the church not to discuss with medical staff how she became pregnant.

After the birth, records show that Phelps played a role in arranging the baby's adoption. Anderson said Phelps had Anderson write a series of questions, which he distributed to religious families looking to adopt a baby.

The surveys asked about the religious, educational and financial backgrounds of potential parents.

In adoption paperwork, Bray wrote that Willis and Willis's wife were also counseled by Phelps.

'It is my impression that (Willis) is fully informed regarding the ramifications (of adoption),' Bray wrote. 'However, he fully agrees that adoption is in the best interests of all involved parties.'

Phelps said in an e-mail message that the adoption occurred under the guidance of Anderson's mother, who was with her in Colorado.

'My understanding has been that Tina and her mother made a careful decision in the best interest of herself and her child,' he wrote.

Amy Nicholas, Bethany's domestic adoption supervisor in Colorado, said case notes show that both the police and a social services department were notified. But she said it wasn't clear if they were from Colorado or New Hampshire. 'I think it would be reported to the local jurisdiction where it occurred,' she said.

The notes also do not show when those calls were made. She declined to discuss further details about the case.

The Concord police said they were alerted to the rape but Anderson's move out of state prevented them from making an arrest in 1997.

Trent Spiner can be reached at 369-3306 or tspiner@cmonitor.com.


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