PASTOR, WIFE CHARGED WITH CHILD ABUSE

Date: 1998-11-08

Commercial Appeal, The (Memphis, TN)
Author: The Associated Press

A former Baptist pastor and his wife were indicted on charges they kidnapped an infant 20 years ago and abused her physically and sexually for years.

The woman was hospitalized after a suicide attempt last year when she was 19, Bristol Police Capt. Blaine Wade said.

He said doctors found scars with scars on top of scars. It was real apparent the child had received years of beatings."

"In her earliest memories, she remembers abuse," Wade said.

Joseph Combs, 50, was indicted on charges of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated perjury and seven counts of aggravated rape. He was pastor of the now-defunct Emmanuel Baptist Church.

Evangeline Combs, 49, was indicted on charges of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated and misdemeanor assault, and aggravated child abuse.

Authorities say the Combses took the girl from a children's home in Indiana when she was 4 months old under the pretense of adopting her. But they never completed the process.

Wade said the woman has been reunited with her birth parents and is living in another state. She returned to testify before the Sullivan County grand jury that indicted the Combs couple on Wednesday. They were arrested Friday.

Police say the couple hid the girl from authorities and home-schooled her. As far as the government was concerned, the child did not exist. The couple lived in several states before moving to Bristol in 1989.

"We don't believe there was ever an opportunity for the child to be away from the parents," Wade said. "We have been told that she had to do a significant amount of work or chores around the house."

Police charged that Combs hindered the investigation by filing a civil lawsuit against police and trying to generate support through a live radio broadcast condemning the city for its investigation. The lawsuit was later dropped.

As she was led into the police station, Evangeline Combs said, "God still loves me."

An indictment charges the couple used rope, brooms, sticks, a metal whip, sharp-edged tin and a wood burner to abuse the girl.

Allegations of child abuse against the Combses surfaced in 1990 when they were living in a church parsonage, but police were unable to substantiate them at that time.

The perjury charge stems from Combs allegedly hiding the girl last year and telling officials she had run away.

The couple remained in the Sullivan County jail Saturday, each on $250,000 bond.

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