KCK church members support parents charged in boy's death

Relates to:
Date: 2003-01-02

Jefferson City News-Tribune (MO)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- A congregation whose two leaders are charged with killing their son said the church is not a cult and doesn't believe in "tough love."

Church leaders also used a prayer vigil and press conference Wednesday to urge the public and media to presume Neil Edgar, 47, and his wife Christy, 46, innocent until proven guilty of the charges against them.

The Edgars, of Kansas City, Kan., were charged Tuesday with first-degree murder in the child abuse death of their 9-year-old adopted son, Brian Edgar. The couple also was charged with three counts of child abuse in connection with the treatment of their three other adopted children, ages 16, 12 and 9.

Between 40 and 50 people prayed during a vigil on the steps of the Wyandotte County courthouse that their leaders would know that the church supports them.

The crowd included about two dozen members of God's Creation Outreach Ministry in Kansas City, Kan., where the Edgars are pastors. The church is affiliated with the Church of God in Christ, which is Pentecostal in nature.

Wyandotte County District Attorney Nick Tomasic alleged Tuesday that the four children were frequent victims of abuse that involved binding and gagging before bedtime. The three surviving siblings are in protective custody.

Tomasic also said that the practice of strict physical discipline "is a teaching of the church" and that the case could yield more charges.

Tomasic recalled that a member of the church had been convicted a few years ago of using a stun gun against a child. Neil Edgar had been called as a witness, Tomasic said.

But Clifford Jackson, the superintendent of the Church of God in Christ jurisdiction in western Missouri, said he has known the Edgars for about nine years and never saw signs they abused children. He said the church does not preach the tough discipline of children.

"The Bible teaches us to bring up our children," Jackson said. "We are to teach children the principles and the standards of righteousness."

Brian, who was homeschooled, had been dead several hours before he was taken to a hospital early Monday. Police then took Neil Edgar into custody.

An autopsy conducted later Monday found the child had gagged on a piece of cloth that was stuffed in his mouth, and asphyxiated. The child's mouth had been taped shut, said Dr. Alan Hancock, the Wyandotte County coroner.

New and old marks on his chest and upper arms, as well as his wrists and ankles, indicated he had been bound, Hancock said.

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