Sex Abuse Charges Dropped Against Pastor Raymond Lambert

This article is courtesy of Fort Mill Times.

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All charges have been dropped against a southwest Missouri pastor who was accused of sexually abusing two teenage girls who were members of his church.

McDonald County prosecutors said the two alleged victims decided “that they can no longer subject themselves or their families to the ongoing scrutiny and pressures of a very public proceeding,” according to a statement released Tuesday by Prosecutor Janice Durbin.

“In no way does this dismissal reflect the state’s opinion about the validity of the charges against the defendant,” Durbin said in the statement.

Raymond Lambert, 53, was accused of abusing the two girls between February 1995 and April 2004. He is pastor of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, which is a live-in community on a farm in rural McDonald County.

He was scheduled to go to trial June 30 on four counts of second-degree child molestation, three counts of second-degree statutory sodomy and one count of sexual abuse.

Similar charges against Lambert filed in August 2006 were dropped last November after Durbin’s office said there were problems getting the alleged victims deposed by the defense.

The attorney for one of the alleged victims said they were not given proper notice of deposition dates and times, and that the alleged victims had their rights violated under state law because they were not informed in advance that prosecutors were going to drop the charges.

Lambert was indicted by a grand jury in February on eight counts of sexual abuse, replacing eight identical charges filed in December by Durbin’s office to replace the eight that were dropped the previous month.

Durbin said Tuesday that her office had been in regular contact with the alleged victims as she was preparing for Lambert’s upcoming trial, and that the charges were dismissed after consulting with the alleged victims.

“This wasn’t a decision that was made easily by any of us,” Durbin said.

The two alleged victims left Lambert’s church in 2006. They accused Lambert of repeatedly assaulting them at the 100-acre farm where the church is located.

Lambert’s wife, Patricia Lambert, and his sister-in-law, Laura Epling originally had been charged with assisting in the abuse, but those charges were dropped in November and haven’t been refiled.

Lambert was one of a half-dozen people who faced criminal charges after an investigation in 2006 into Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church and its sister institution, Grandview Valley Baptist Church North in Newton County.

Of the original defendants, only George Otis Johnston, 65, pastor of Grandview Valley Baptist Church North, still faces charges. Durbin said she has to review the case against Johnston in McDonald County and hasn’t decided whether to prosecute that case.

Johnston is accused of nine counts of first-degree statutory sodomy, six counts of second-degree statutory sodomy and two counts of first-degree child molestation.

Assistant Newton County Prosecutor Bill Dobbs said the case in his county is scheduled to go to trial next month. The alleged victims in that case aren’t the same ones who didn’t want to testify in Lambert’s trial, Dobbs said.

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