Ex-Realtor to appear in court on rape charges
Suspect was once community figure
By Trent Spiner / Monitor staff
June 16, 2010
Once a prominent Realtor and member of the Trinity Baptist Church in Concord, Ernest Willis is expected to face a judge today on charges that he raped and impregnated a 15-year-old girl he met through the church.
In criminal complaints filed against Willis, the Concord police said he raped Tina Anderson in a parking lot while teaching her to drive and again at her home, impregnating her in the summer of 1997. According to court records, Anderson became pregnant a month after Willis's wife gave birth to the third of their four children.
According to Anderson, when she alerted her mother and the church's pastor to her pregnancy, Willis financially supported a plan to move her away from Concord to deliver the baby - a move the police said hampered their investigation for 13 years.
Anderson would go on to give the baby up for adoption, while Willis remained a church member for seven years before being expelled over another matter.
Willis, 51, was well-known within the local real estate industry, working as a Realtor in both Concord and Epsom. State licensing records show he first applied for an associate broker's license with the Larrabee Real Estate Co. When it was bought by Prudential Verani Realty in 2002, Willis was tapped to serve as the temporary branch manager for the Epsom location, according to President Margherita Verani.
"I knew nothing about this," she said.
Willis also served as a director of the Concord Board of Realtors from 2006 to 2007, according to President Rachel Eames.
Michelle Suprey, another former board member, met Willis while showing houses that were for sale. Willis volunteered to help with the organization's annual charity golf tournament and took part in walks to raise money for cancer on behalf of the board, she said.
"He always struck me as a very kind person who was not quick to anger," she said. "He was a very nice person, and I am having a hard time putting the two things together. It just doesn't make sense."
Don Goudreau worked with Willis at Verani, calling him knowledgeable, polite and friendly. Both Suprey and Goudreau said they knew Willis as a religious family man who kept his views private.
"In a nutshell, that's where I saw him, as a family man, and he'd move heaven and earth to help his kids out," Goudreau said.
Willis's license expired in March, state records show. His name was removed from the Board of Realtors website after a reporter's phone call this week.
He faces four felonies - two for each rape and two more for having sex with a minor. Willis is expected to be arraigned this morning at Concord District Court after being released on $100,000 personal recognizance bail following his May 20 arrest.
Messages left at phone numbers listed with Willis's name on court records were not returned this week.
When Anderson, who is now 28, discovered she was pregnant, she told her mother and Trinity's former pastor Chuck Phelps. According to Phelps, Anderson's mother said she could not care for her daughter and asked for his help to find her another place to live. But Anderson said she was kicked out of the church's high school and kept at Phelps's house until she could be whisked from the state.
Anderson said Willis paid for a plane ticket for her to fly to Colorado, where Phelps arranged for her to be home-schooled by another Baptist family he knew from his time as a pastor there.
Before she left, Phelps called on both Anderson and Willis to apologize before the congregation for their actions, Anderson said. According to Anderson's statement to the Concord police, Phelps told parishioners in 1997 that the two apologies were not related.
Anderson said she was forced to apologize for her "immorality" and "allowing a compromising situation to occur."
Willis apologized for cheating on his wife, according to Anderson's statement and witnesses.
The church's current pastor, Brian Fuller, said Willis was disciplined by the church over another matter in 2004 and kicked out. Fuller, who was a youth minister at the time, said he wasn't sure why.
In 2006, Willis's wife of 24 years was awarded a divorce after filing paperwork at the Family Division of Concord District Court, where she claimed irreconcilable differences strained the marriage. Court records do not describe details of what led to the breakdown. Willis was ordered to pay more than $3,500 a month in alimony and child support. He also agreed to relinquish rights to their family's home in Chichester within 30 days of the divorce, court records show.
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