New York Times, November 11, 1998

Police say pastor and wife kidnapped and brainwashed girl to be family servant
By The Associated Press

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A former pastor and his wife allegedly kidnapped a baby girl from a children's home, then raised her while brainwashing her into believing God wanted her to be their family's servant.

For nearly 20 years, the girl served the couple and their four children, police say. And all the while, she was being physically and sexually abused by the couple, according to an indictment.

``I don't think she ever really knew it was wrong,'' said police Capt. Blaine Wade in nearby Bristol.

The alleged abuse was discovered when the woman, now 20, was hospitalized after a suicide attempt last year.

``While hospitalized in a coma, (she) often was heard to call out, `I made the coffee, Daddy; please don't hurt me,''' court documents said.

After she was released from a hospital, the pastor apparently sent her to stay with friends outside the area, Wade said. However, she later contacted police in Bristol.

Joseph Combs, 50, was charged last week with kidnapping, aggravated assault, perjury and seven counts of rape. He was pastor of the now-defunct Emmanuel Baptist Church.

His wife, Evangeline Combs, 49, is charged with kidnapping, aggravated and misdemeanor assault and child abuse. The Combses were jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail each.

The couple did not mistreat their three biological children or an adopted daughter, police said.

The indictment alleges the young woman was beaten with a rope, brooms, sticks, a metal whip, a baseball bat and a wooden shoe.

Authorities said the couple took the girl from a children's home in Indiana when she was 4 months old under the pretense of adopting her but never did.

The couple allegedly kept the girl in seclusion, and only family members and a few church members knew about her. The couple home-schooled her, according to police, but she is unable to read or write.

In 1992, police in the Virginia half of Bristol, which straddles the state line, found the girl locked in a convenience store bathroom, crying and saying she was afraid of her abusive parents. It was unclear why no action was taken, but the girl remained with the couple.

In 1996, she disappeared from her father's church and was found wandering around a neighboring county with no memory of how she got there. Again she was returned home.

The woman has been reunited with her birth parents and is getting dental work and other attention, Wade said.

``She looks 100 times better,'' Wade said.

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