Woman Gets Life in Prison for Son’s Death

OLATHE, Kan. (AP)–A woman was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for killing her 9-year-old adopted son by wrapping him in duct tape as punishment for stealing cookies.

The boy was left overnight with only his nose uncovered and suffocated on his own vomit at the family’s home in Overland Park, west of Kansas City.

Christy Edgar, her husband, Neil, and six other people were charged with abusing the couple’s three adopted children and another boy who knew the family. Those involved included the couple’s baby sitter and members of God’s Creation Outreach Ministry, a storefront church in Kansas City where the Edgars served as pastors.

The woman “was the ringleader of a group that tortured little kids and killed one of them,” prosecutor Paul Morrison said.

Moments before she was about to go on trial in August, Christy Edgar unexpectedly pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the December 2002 death, along with two counts of abusing other children in the family.

She entered the pleas against the advice of her attorney, Kevin Moriarty, who told the court Wednesday his client did not understand the consequences of her decision.

Edgar insisted she was innocent, making a rambling speech before Judge John Bennett, who refused to toss out her guilty pleas.

“There’s a lot of lies that went on,” she said.

Christy Edgar also received a pair of 32-month sentences for child abuse. She will be eligible for parole in 20 years.

Neil Edgar and baby sitter Chasity Boyd were convicted of first-degree murder and child-abuse charges in September. Both were sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole for 20 years.

Prosecutors said the husband did not participate in the abuse but knew it was happening and did nothing to stop it.

Five members of the couple’s church, including Neil Edgar’s sister Julia Edgar-Montgomery, have pleaded no contest to attempted abuse of a child. Edgar-Montgomery, 55, was sentenced to 13 months in jail Wednesday morning.

‘You must love discipline,’ Edgar children were taught

It was the kind of conclusion a child can make.

The Bible says a thief should have his hand cut off, the 12-year-old boy was taught. Therefore, his parents were merciful because when he stole something a cookie, a piece of candy, water from the faucet they only tied him up.

“Any kid would be proud to have my parents,” he said.

The murder trial testimony about his parents, Neil and Christy Edgar, revealed how the Edgars’ four adopted children were taught to see the world.

Their world revolved around their church, and the church revolved around Christy Edgar.

Although she avoided trial by pleading guilty in the child-abuse death of her 9-year-old son, Brian, it was Christy Edgar who was the focus of most testimony in the trial of her husband and the family baby sitter.

Despite defense efforts to blame Christy Edgar for the crime, jurors on Thursday found Neil Edgar and Chasity Boyd guilty of first-degree felony murder.

From the children to Neil Edgar himself, witnesses described Christy Edgar as the guiding force behind God’s Creation Outreach Ministry. The church, which was closed after the Edgars’ arrests, was a close-knit congregation that once numbered as many as 100 members.

Neil Edgar was the pastor. Christy Edgar had several titles. Co-pastor. Evangelist. Prophet.

She claimed to speak the word of God, and many in the church believed her.

Some church members followed her teachings, prosecutors say, but others did not. Christy Edgar, Boyd and five other church members are facing charges of child abuse in Wyandotte County District Court.

Boyd’s attorney, Robert Kuchar, and the witnesses he called offered the most severe criticism of Christy Edgar and how she ran the church. Kuchar based Boyd’s defense on the premise that she was young, naive and under the domination of Christy Edgar.

In closing arguments, Kuchar said that Dec. 30, the day Brian died, was the end of Christy Edgar’s reign of terror.

He used terms such as “cult” and “brainwashing.”

The local head of the denomination that God’s Creation affiliated itself with said after the trial that there were “cult activities” surrounding Christy Edgar.

“She ran that church like a general, and they marched behind her like an army,” said the Rev. Clifford A. Jackson, superintendent of the Pentecostal District Association of the Church of God in Christ.

Jackson said in an interview after the verdicts that the severe discipline practiced by Christy Edgar was neither condoned nor proscribed by the denomination.

“That’s the most bizarre behavior we’ve ever heard of,” he said.

Witnesses testified that the church did good things in its community, such as assisting the poor and helping people get off drugs.

One witness described the need for spiritual fulfillment that led her to the church. Members were kind and friendly, she said, although she left after becoming disillusioned with what she described as Christy Edgar’s dominating personality.

The words of Christy Edgar’s children, even as they tried to defend her, were a testament to the discipline she wielded and the obedience she demanded.

When told that her father had confessed to tying up the children, the Edgars’ 9-year-old daughter seemed shocked and then asked her interviewer a question.

“Is Mama with him?”

In the hours after Brian died, his siblings refused to say anything negative about their parents. Both the 12-year-old boy and 9-year-old girl said their greatest fear was being taken from the family.

Even when they finally disclosed instances of physical abuse, the children sought to portray their parents’ actions as justified.

We were really, really bad, the 12-year-old said several times.

The little girl recited a Bible verse to one interviewer.

To learn you must love discipline, she said.

The three surviving children, all siblings, were adopted in 1997. Brian had been with the Edgars about two years.

Mike Kill, a Kansas City, Kan., police detective, has dealt with the aftermath of the city’s street violence for more than two decades, but some of the things the Edgar children said stunned him.

Kill asked the 12-year-old when his birthday was. The boy answered December. Kill asked whether the boy would have cake and presents.

“No,” the boy answered. “December is Jesus’ birthday.”

It would not be right to get presents for themselves. They did not get Christmas presents either, the boy said, but he then told Kill he remembered one year.

“He said they got a corn cob, a lump of coal and a switch in their Christmas stocking,” Kill testified.

District Attorney Paul Morrison had wanted to present evidence to jurors about the $2,000 a month in adoption subsidies the state of Kansas paid the Edgars for taking in the children.

District Judge John Bennett ruled that the evidence was not admissible.

After the trial, Morrison said he thought the children were nothing more than a meal ticket for the Edgars. During the trial, he had pointed out that Neil Edgar could not even tell police how old Brian was when he died.

“I think he was 8. Seven or 8. Something like that,” Neil Edgar told detectives.

“Do you know his birthday?” they asked.

“Not right off, sir,” Neil Edgar said.