After 30 years of silence and agony . . .
(This article contains adult themes. Parental guidance is suggested.)
Daniel Walker & Chance Baskerville
In 1984 a 14-year girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by a trusted youth minister in a closet of a Vernon church. Nearly 30 years later, following decades of therapy, the now grown woman confronted her alleged abuser through police assistance. The preacher, a renowned minister operating youth church camps in Alaska and Oklahoma, allegedly asked forgiveness from the victim on a wiretap -- but she was stunned to find the statute of limitations had expired and the case was closed.
Police documents and recordings obtained by the Vernon Daily Record, with the consent of the alleged victim, show that investigators interviewed numerous witnesses and possible victims in pursuing a sexual assault case against Rev. Zane Newton, former youth minister at Calvary Baptist Church in Vernon.
The joint investigation by the Vernon Police Dept. and Wilbarger County District Attorney’s Office included one victim confronting Newton. But the investigation was shut down with Det. Mickey Allen and DA Investigator Jeff Case ending their report on Aug. 29, 2013 stating, “This case will be closed due to the fact that the statue of limitations has expired for prosecution of Zane Newton for the offense of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child.”
Now two alleged victims and a local church want to let a new generation of teenagers know that reporting abuse and seeking assistance are the right things to do.
Kenya Templeton was one of the alleged victims. Despite being offered anonymity by the newspaper, she said she wants to use her story and what she experienced to help others.
“This article is part of my healing process. I know that I’m no different than anyone else. We all deal with really hard issues in life. I’m just thankful that I’ve survived mine,” she said. “I hope to show others who are struggling with issues from their past that keeping things secret feeds the shame and self condemnation keeps us in chains. Laying issues out on the table opens up the opportunity for healing and unity.”
Church and law enforcement leaders agreed.
“We want to stand with Kenya. What she experienced is wrong – she should have never had to go through that. The church let her down by not making Newton answer for what he did,” said Rev. Toby Castleberry, the current pastor of Cavalry Baptist Church.
“I apologized to Kenya on behalf of our church. I can’t even imagine the hurt of enduring this in the one place you should be able to trust. I believe the main thing moving forward is that this guy, and people like him, be removed from having any influence or even contact with young people. One of the great mistakes that churches make is trying to protect the minister or the ministry when we are actually to be stewards of the people.”
“It’s a very brave thing Kenya is doing by coming forward and sharing her story,” District Attorney Staley Heatly said. “Hopefully it will help someone else find the courage they need.”
Templeton said she appreciated Castleberry’s apology even though he has only been with the church for the past four years and the alleged abuse occurred in the 1980s.
“He apologized to me for the church and I just cried and cried – for three hours.”
She said she finally was able to tell her family about what happened when she was 20.
“(My family) wanted me to go to the sheriff’s department but I wanted to handle it through the church,” Templeton said.
“I want to say that I don’t blame any person except Zane. He is the abuser. The rest of us weren’t really sure how to deal with it,” Templeton stated.
For the next 20 years, Templeton said she went through silent agony. But then after viewing Newton’s website and seeing that he was operating church camps for youth, she felt like she needed to go to the police to tell her story.
Newton was, and is still, operating the Newton Foundation, based in Blair, Okla. Newton’s website boasts that he operates one of the largest youth camps in Oklahoma as well as camps for troubled teens in Alaska.
Templeton went to the Vernon Police Department on May 30, 2013 and provided a statement to the Vernon Police detailing that the abuse began when she was 14 and “improper fondling continued until she was about 19,” Det. Allen wrote.
The first incident, when the victim was 14, occurred at the church when Newton rubbed her breasts and vaginal area. Later, when she was 15, Newton exposed himself to her in a closet under a stairwell and they “went through the motions of sexual intercourse,” the police report stated.
A second woman gave a similar statement to Vernon Police as part of their investigation. She agreed to allow the newspaper to use her statements on condition of anonymity.
She said that when she was in the 8th grade, and a member of Newton’s youth group at Calvary, Newton gave her a back rub.
“While Zane was rubbing my shoulders, he told me that he wanted to be the first man to ever make love to me. He said he wanted to be the first man to touch me in certain ways in certain places,” she stated in her report.
“I know there were inappropriate behaviors with other girls in our youth group based on a conversation that happened shortly after Zane left. The details of these transgressions are not as clear, as these memories are a part of my life that I wish had never occurred.”
After providing a statement, Vernon Police arranged for Templeton to try to call Newton on May 31, 2013. The number didn’t work. On June 5, Detective Allen met with Templeton again and attempted to call Newton. This time Newton allegedly answered and identified himself as Zane and acknowledged knowing her.
In the recording and in the police report, Templeton said she needed to talk to Newton and ask him why in order to have closure about being sexually assaulted. She asked “Why? Why me?”
Newton said he wished he had a good answer but he was real sorry.
On the recording, she told Newton that her counselor told her she needed to file a report with the police and asked Newton what he thought she should do. Newton replied:
“Well, you know I can’t … uhh … obviously I can’t, uhhh, I would hope after… uhhh… you know, I wish you wouldn’t. I really can’t tell you… I have no right to ask you not to. Does that make sense?” Templeton replied “yes.”
Templeton then told Newton that she still had a coat with his semen on it and asked if she should get rid of it. Newton replied: “I don’t think… I don’t think…uhmmmm…. I don’t think I have a right to ask you that …. I would like for you to …. I want to be clear of this too…. You know …. I don’t want to be a burden to you. I don’t want to be a chain around you in your spirit and in your heart. There was a lot more good things and God type things in our lives than Zane’s sinfulness … and my not treating you like the lady God created you to be. I was weak and vulnerable and I didn’t take care of you. I didn’t lead you in those moments of weakness. You know I don’t know other than being able to tell you, I’m not that fellow.”
Newton then asked her not to repeat “that stuff to anyone.”
Templeton replied: “You mean you don’t want me to tell anyone?”
Newton replied he had only told his “accountability people” and it should not be repeated in public. “For me to ask you to get rid of the jacket is like asking you to cover for me and I don’t want you to cover for me. But at the same time I would hope that maybe, by the grace of the lord and the grace from your heart, that not only would you forgive me, but help us put this in a place it’s supposed to be and a very dead and distance … away from us … and not let our enemy have any victory in … any more.. in my life or your life for sure.”
She then asked if God intended for the abuse to happen to her. Newton said he did not think intend was the right word but obviously God allows things to happen.
Newton said he felt “really ashamed “ and “really bad” for what happened. Newton then asked her if she intended to press charges against him. Templeton stated she did not know. Newton stated he “just did not want to give Satan that kind of victory.”
After the call ended, Vernon Police records show that a subpoena was sent June 10, 2013 to AT&T for cell phone information including subscriber and billing information and call logs from June 4, 2013 through June 6.
Detective Allen wrote in his report after receiving the information “The cell phone records show that on 06/05/2013, the cell phone number (redacted) received a call from cell phone (redacted). This would tend to prove that Kenya was in fact talking to Zane Newton.”
Following the call and subpoena, investigators continued following leads throughout August 2013 and identified two girls who may have experienced harassment in Oklahoma.
But they were unable to pursue the case due to the statute of limitations; however, now the law has been changed. This was an unfortunate example of why the law was changed, stated District Attorney Heatly.
There is no longer a statute of limitations on sexual assault, Heatly said, and he encouraged all victims to either contact the police department or the District Attorney’s office.
Newton did not answer calls seeking comment on this story.
“I think the take away is that even in places where we think we are safe, or maybe especially in places where we think we are safe – we have to be diligent to protect and defend our kids,” Castleberry said.
Templeton said she hopes others will come forward. “I don’t want to get to heaven and have to tell anyone that I could’ve done something to prevent him from abusing them, but chose not to. One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. Those are daunting statistics,” she said. “I believe it is time we stand and say, ‘No more. No more silence. No more shame. No more protecting the perpetrators. Please come forward if you too, have been the victim of sexual abuse.”