MINISTER'S TEARS FLOW IN DENIAL OF `DAUGHTER' ABUSE

Date: 2000-03-22

The Commercial Appeal
Author: The Associated Press

A Baptist minister accused of abusing a girl he raised as his daughter said Tuesday he is mystified by her allegations.

"I love her," Rev. Joseph Combs testified tearfully. "I thought she loved me. I am bewildered by all of this. I can't get my mind around it." He and his wife, Evangeline, are accused of taking Esther Combs from an Indiana orphanage but failing to adopt her, raising her as the family's servant and repeatedly assaulting her.

Joseph Combs also is charged with rape. His wife is charged with child abuse. Closing arguments are set for today.

Dist. Atty. Gen. Greeley Wells noted that Combs's testimony was different than that of at least 10 witnesses.

Combs testified he and his wife planned to adopt baby Esther from the Baptist Children's Home in Valparaiso in 1978. But he said the agency wanted 10 percent of their annual income indefinitely.

Esther, now 22, is living in another state under a different name.

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I am thankful esther was

I am thankful esther was reunited with her real family.

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