Warrens acquitted -- church family attempts to mend
[note this case involves a different daughter than daughter David Gilmore was convicted of abusing]
Timothy James Warrens is acquitted on charges he sexually abused a young girl, the daughter of a friends at West Chehalem Friends Church
By Gary Allen, Newberg Graphic News Editor
Email Gary at firstname.lastname@example.org
McMINNVILLE — Timothy James Warrens maintained his innocence from the day he was arrested in November 2002 until the day he testified in court Wednesday afternoon.
“I just know what I haven’t done and I know I didn’t touch her at any time in any way,” Warrens, 18, said.
A Yamhill County jury of six women and six men, all of whom sat through often graphic and sometimes disturbing testimony of the alleged abuse of a small girl, believed Warrens — they acquitted him after two hours of deliberation Thursday evening.
“My son was exonerated!” said Warrens father, Hewitt, who maintained his son’s innocence from the beginning.
Hewitt Warrens described the scene Thursday when the verdict was read. “He was crying,” he said of his son. “Everybody rejoiced and praised the lord ... it was a joyous occasion because we finally got some justice here.”
Timothy Warrens was charged with five counts each of first-degree sexual abuse and unlawful sexual penetration. Police said his alleged victim was the daughter, now 7, of a family Warrens met at West Chehalem Friends Church. The alleged victim’s father was once a staff member of the church and befriended Warrens and another boy, often having the two over to stay the night.
Senior Pastor Paul Almquist said the case has been difficult for the church because both the Warrens family and the family of the alleged victim belong to the church, although the alleged victim’s family is currently attending another church.
Soon after Warrens was arrested church elders developed a statement that was read at a church meeting; the statement encouraged prayer for both families, as well as advising church members to remain neutral on the case.
“We’ve tried to encourage people to be proper ...,” Almquist said, “to ensure that their talk is in the right spirit, to make sure not to try the case out of court and let the legal system do what is supposed to do.”
Still, one family discontinued, at least temporarily, attending the church because it didn’t want to engage in or hear discussions about the case, Almquist said.
Over the four days of the trial the prosecutor in the case, chief deputy district attorney Cynthia Easterday, alleged Warrens abused the girl on more than two dozen occasions over a 29-month period. She produced witnesses, including Newberg Police Department Det. Sherry Mccuistion, that documented the girl’s allegations that, beginning at a sleepover following a volleyball tournament in April 2000, Warrens inappropriately touched the girl on numerous occasions.
The girl talked about the alleged abuse during testimony Wednesday.
However, defense counselor Ted Coran slowly built a case over four days that the girl was lying, that she had been coached into what to say during earlier interviews and during her testimony Wednesday. He produced two witnesses, women from the church who had baby-sat for the children of the alleged victim’s family, that painted the girl as difficult and prone to lying.
Still, Hewitt Warrens said the system was stacked against his son and, especially in the case of a minor, “the child is always believed — they don’t consider any other evidence.
“That is so shortsighted. ... we cannot put any innocent (person) in jail. They are only advocates for the victim.”
Unable to post bail, Timothy Warrens remained in jail for the entire five months from his arrest until his trial (Warrens waived his right to a speedy trial). His father said his incarceration among “real criminals” had left his son traumatized, especially after jailers told his fellow inmates he was arrested for sexually abusing a child.
Warrens remains in jail, despite his acquittal Thursday. District Attorney Brad Berry said similar charges had been levied by the family of Warrens’ alleged victim in Washington County (the family lived for a short time near Hagg Lake and in Forest Grove).
Hewitt Warrens said he believed the Washington County charges would be dropped based on his son’s acquittal in Yamhill County.
On Wednesday the church’s elders prepared for the verdict, Almquist said, regardless of whether Warrens was found guilty or innocent.
Either way “we wanted to extend an offer (to the families) after the trial to meet with the elders separately to give them a time to debrief, to unload their feelings ... to pray with them,” the pastor said. “We don’t know if in time that there would be a possibility to meet with them together ... we would suspect that would take some time.”
Almquist, who became senior pastor at the church four years ago, said the church had never gone through such a divisive issue before.
“Nothing close,” he said. “Nothing of this magnitude that has caused people that used to be very, very close friends to stand in opposition to each other.”
Hewitt Warrens remained effusive. “This is time for rejoicing,” he said. “This is a time when our justice system is working.”