Investigation expands into death of boy

Church: Clergy deny that strict physical discipline is central to teachings
AP, Jan. 4, 2003
By Brandon Ferguson

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As the investigation expanded Friday into the suffocation death of a 9-year-old boy, clergy affiliated with his adoptive parents’ church stressed the case isn’t related to church teachings as prosecutors have alleged.

Proverbs 13:24.

That verse admonishes that the person who spares the rod hates his child but he who loves his child is careful to discipline. He said that discipline begins and ends with training, as Proverbs 22:6 instructs.

“The church does not teach these catastrophic ideas of abusing anybody. Not just children, anybody,” Jackson said. “If something like that happens in a church, it’s the exception and not the rule.”

He said he supports the Edgars and won’t rush to judgment.

“I was not there, you were not there,” he said. “The facts remain to be seen.”

Prosecutors say Brian Edgar died the night of Dec. 29 at a residence and that the boy had been dead “several hours” before Neil Edgar brought his body to The University of Kansas Medical Center. Neil Edgar, 47, was arrested and he and his wife, 46, were charged Tuesday. The autopsy also showed signs the boy had vomited and that he had been bound tightly around the chest, Hancock said.

On Thursday night, Tomasic filed a first-degree murder charge against Boyd, 19, whom he described as an acquaintance and possibly a baby sitter for the Edgars.

On Friday, police served a search warrant on a home in Overland Park believed to be owned by the Edgars. The couple and Boyd remained jailed on $2 million bond each. The Edgar’s other children — ages 16, 12 and 9 — were in protective custody.

In the 2000 abuse case, Neil Edgar testified as a reluctant state’s witness at the trial of Lee Ray Banks Sr., who was then a member of God’s Creation.

During the trial, Neil Edgar described Banks as his “spiritual son” and said he had no knowledge of the abuse.

“If I would have, I would have corrected him right there,” Edgar testified. “I considered them (Bank’s children) as my grandchildren, and I love them dearly.”

According to a trial transcript, police found a stun gun in Edgar’s desk and a paddle in his office. A police report referred to in the transcript said Edgar told a detective that Banks had a smaller stun gun. But at the trial, Edgar said he didn’t remember making such a statement.

Banks was sentenced to nearly five years in prison and becomes eligible for parole in December.

Relatives of some church members have said their loved ones began to act strangely after joining the congregation.

Vicynthia Gibson, who says her sister is a member of God’s Creation, told WDAF-TV in Kansas City that her family was concerned when the woman withdrew from the family after joining the church.

“When she started joining that church, her demeanor went down. She started dressing as if she was in second-hand clothing. She started to cut her hair off. She just didn’t look like herself,” Gibson said.

Gibson said that the family informed police about the church but police never got involved.

While members of God’s Creation have denied the congregation teaches the physical discipline of children, it isn’t unheard of for a church to promote such actions. Last year, five members of an independent church in Atlanta, including the pastor, were convicted of aggravated assault and cruelty to children for whipping two boys in front of the congregation.

The church members insisted they have the right to beat their children when they misbehave.

Meanwhile, Jackson said God’s Creation was planning a memorial for Brian. The boy’s death has caused outrage in the community and many who didn’t know Brian brought flowers and stuffed animals to a makeshift memorial for him across from the church.

Bob Moles, who lives one house down from the church, said he often sees children at the church’s youth center and it appears that they are well looked after by adults.

“I have never heard or seen anything,” he said. “The man (Edgar) has been always kind to me.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday January 4, 2003.
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