No criminal charges in Hemphill restraint case

St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 21, 2003

LARGO — Prosecutors will not pursue criminal charges in the unusual November case of a man and two female friends who restrained the man’s wife with electrical tape so he could take her to a doctor

The State Attorney’s Office last week dropped false imprisonment charges against Terry R. Hemphill, 54, Jamie J. Popa, 34, and Laurie Lynn Miller, 33. A domestic battery charge against Hemphill also was dropped.

Largo police arrested the three after finding they had bound Hemphill’s wife, Cathleen, with electrical tape. Police were summoned to the Largo home after a neighbor reported seeing a suspicious vehicle in the area.

When police arrived, Hemphill was standing outside the home. When an officer approached Hemphill, he invited the officer inside. There, the officer saw Hemphill’s wife with her hands bound behind her back.

Hemphill told the officer his wife had been acting erratically and needed to see the doctor. Hemphill said he enlisted the help of Popa and Miller to get her there.

Officers determined Hemphill’s wife was being taken against her will. Hemphill and the two women were arrested.

But at a later State Attorney’s interview, Hemphill’s wife said she did not want her husband prosecuted. She signed a waiver giving him the right to have contact with her.

Hemphill moved to New Mexico, where he was born, soon after his arrest. He is living there now with his mother and could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The attorney representing Hemphill, Popa and Miller also sent a letter to prosecutors questioning the woman’s credibility.

When prosecutors tried to reach the woman by phone, their calls were not answered. Prosecutors sent a letter to her home, but that, too, was not answered, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett.

For those reasons, prosecutors could not go forward with the cases, Bartlett said.

“I think when you throw this up to a jury, I don’t think the jury is going to feel criminal intent was an issue,” Bartlett said.

Mrs. Hemphill had told police that her husband had previously abused her, though she had not reported it to police. She reported it instead to the Church of Scientology, of which the Hemphills are members.

Mrs. Hemphill also said in statements that Popa and Miller were members of the church. In fact, she said Popa was a “field minister” with the church.

Bartlett said Mrs. Hemphill finally contacted prosecutors Wednesday and wanted to prosecute the three, but that her inconsistency made it a case they could not pursue.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday February 24, 2003.
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