Gathering urges full probe of church

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Jefferson – Wearing a white T-shirt with a photo of Carolyn Clark on it, Joanne Scruggs of Geneva set the tone for the town hall meeting Monday to address the investigation into Clark’s death.

“We are going to be Carolyn’s voice,” Scruggs said as the crowd of 100 church and community members roared in agreement. “She died so others could be saved. We as Christians have to come together.”

Clark, 43, of Plymouth Township, was found beaten to death early May 7 at an Ashtabula home where she had been staying. She was trying to leave her estranged husband and the Apostolic Faith Church Body of Jesus Christ of the Newborn Assembly. Her husband, Ralph, 43, has been charged with aggravated murder and murder.

Following her death, former church members have called the church a cult and alleged that members are brainwashed by the church’s leader and self-professed bishop, the Rev. Charles Keyes.

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The meeting Monday was more inspirational than confrontational, but various church officials and residents all stressed the need to continue investigating Clark’s death and charges that the church endangers children.

Ashtabula NAACP President Adam Holman, who called the meeting, encouraged anyone who had information about the church and its practices to call police or prosecutors. Many in the room said they feared young children in the group were at risk.

Carolyn Clark’s brother and sister, Michael and Marilyn Butts, urged local officials to fully investigate their sister’s death and the church.

“We want to prevent more harm from occurring,” Michael Butts said. “If there is an organized effort, we can put this organization out of business once and for all.”

His sister asked those at the meeting to sign petitions urging the local prosecutor, police and the Ohio attorney general to investigate whether church members conspired to get rid of Clark to prevent her from going to police.

Clark’s attorney had filed affidavits in which Clark claimed Keyes used “mind control” tactics on members and had beaten and physically abused children.

Church members have denied the allegations. Several of Clark’s older children have spoken in public supporting their father and blaming their mother for some abusive behavior.

Ashtabula County Prosecutor Thomas Sartini said in a statement read at the meeting that he cannot investigate innuendo and rumor. But he urged anyone with first-hand information on any kind of abuse to come forward.

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The Plain Dealer, USA
June 14, 2005
Maggi Martin, Plain Dealer Reporter

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)