Two More Sex Abuse Accusations Made Against Randall “Danny” Russell

This story is courtesy of the Joplin Globe.


By Jeff Lehr

Accusations by two more women who have come forward are expected to produce more charges of sexual abuse against Randall “Danny” Russell, pastor of a fringe church on the edge of Neosho.

A 21-year-old woman who lives on the West Coast has said she reported sexual abuse at the hands of Russell, 49, to the Newton County Sheriff’s Department and the Missouri Department of Social Services in 2002, when she was 15 years old.

Accounts of Russell’s arrest April 29, on charges that he sexually abused a female member of his Acts II church, at 12825 Mulberry Road, four to five years ago when she was 15, apparently prompted the West Coast woman to come forward.

Sheriff Ken Copeland said the resurfacing of the complainant prompted a review of department records this week. No report of her prior complaint could be found, the sheriff said. But a retired sheriff’s investigator acknowledged that he had looked into her complaint along with a state child-abuse investigator from the former Division of Family Services, now called Children’s Division of DSS.

Copeland said both the retired sheriff’s investigator and the DSS investigator involved recalled that the teen had been reluctant to testify against Russell, and that the case had been dropped for that reason.

The sheriff said her renewed complaint is being pursued at this time.

“Mike Barnett (the detective in charge of current investigation) has contacted her, we’ve taken a report and we intend to present it to the prosecutor,” Copeland said.

Charges likely to be requested are child molestation, he said. No sexual intercourse is alleged, he said.

Russell stands charged with second-degree statutory rape, second-degree statutory sodomy, and child abuse with respect to the victim who came forward more than a week ago. She claimed that Russell had taken nude photographs of her when she was 16 and had both oral sex and sexual intercourse with her.

She alleged a progressive course of sexual abuse at the pastor’s hands, beginning with kissing and touching of genitals through clothing in August of 2003, proceeding to oral sex in a church office in late 2003 or early 2004, and eventually culminating in sexual intercourse in May or June of 2004.

Sheriff’s deputies allegedly found nude photographs of the girl still in the church office when they executed a search warrant there April 29.

Copeland said Friday that about 12 to 14 females who attended the church in recent years have been interviewed by investigators in an effort to determine how extensive sexual abuse may have been within the church. He said none of those has reported being sexually abused by Russell.

But a third alleged victim came forward on her own early this week, the sheriff said. She is 24 and now lives in Joplin.

Derek Gillett Pleads Guilty In Child Sex Abuse Case

Today is a very sad day for all concerned with the case of Derek Gillett, who reportedly pled guilty in Superior Court to charges relating to the alleged sexual assault of two teenage girls.

And how many lives are changed just like that.

All it takes to get a little clue is a look through the comments on my post “Derek Gillett Case” where, as of this moment, there have been 187 comments. A few are mine but most are supporters and detractors of Derek. Exchanges have been heated and dogmatic on both sides.

Friends of Derek have been staunch in their support and unshakeable belief in his innocence. These include faithful friends of the extended family, close personal friends of Derek, and teens and young adults who have looked up to Derek as an influential spiritual leader. For every person who has posted a comment, many more who feel the same have remained silent. How many people is that? I think I can safely say it is hundreds looking at the traffic I’ve seen here.

Two girls have had their lives forever scarred by the actions of one man. The families of those girls have been wounded. The men these girls will marry one day – if they are able to do so — will be affected by this incident, as will any children they bear. Sexual abuse leaves scars that last a lifetime. And those scars are frequently passed to future generations. In my family it goes back at least three generations; I’ve been praying for years that sex abuse won’t go on to my children, even though domestic violence has already touched and changed them. Three generations in my family alone; how many people is that? Yes, that is how devastating sexual abuse is, even if it’s “just one time.”

Further than that, every one of the people who have remained unswerving in their belief in Derek’s innocence have had that faith thrown back in their faces. We want to reach out to Derek and his family in their pain, and that is certainly not out of order. But we need to face the truth of the consequences of what has happened, too. We desperately want to ease the pain. It is normal to want to minimize the devastation, but it is very important that we do not.

For everyone who is reading this and has been touched by this event, please understand this is why I have this blog. This situation that you are experiencing right now is happening in churches all over our country, literally on a weekly basis. Multiply your hurt by thousands of other believers who are in the same place you are – or will be next week, or were last year, etc. That is more pain than I can even conceive.

But I’ve seen the wreckage. I’ve seen the people who go on in denial because it’s just too much to accept. It can’t be this bad. This has to be a one-off anomaly. The very sad result of that attitude is clergy abuse will keep on happening; and it does. Folks, it keeps on happening when we try to heal the wound lightly. Is that what we want for the church?

Then there are the people who just turn and walk away because another one who spoke for God at the same time committed acts no man of God could possibly condone. So what does that make of every sermon he preached, everything he stood for? There are now thousands of “former Christians” out there, spreading the word about the cesspool that Christianity is becoming.

Are they mistaken? Yes, they have made the error of confusing Christianity with God. God is not the problem. But Christianity has a very big problem. And it is not just clergy abuse. Clergy abuse is merely a symptom of the problem. If clergy abuse were an occasional, bizarre occurrence, perhaps we could lay the blame on a few individuals. But it is a systemic issue. Why? We need to ask this question if there is to be any hope of the Christian church healing.

For all of you who have been following this situation, my heart goes out to you. And my prayers are with Derek and his family in this painful time, as well as with the girls and their families.