Dallas Morning News, April 10, 2000

More arrests possible in church case--
Youth home's leader accused of abusing 2
, Associated Press

CORPUS CHRISTI - Authorities said more arrests may come after the superintendent of People's Baptist Church and Ministries was taken into custody in connection with abuse allegations lodged by two teens who were residents of a home operated by the ministries.

Nueces County deputies arrested Allen Smith on Friday.

Wiley Cameron Sr., pastor of the church and head of the ministries, also was arrested after he refused to turn over records that had been sought by investigators since Wednesday, Sheriff Larry Olivarez said. An attorney representing Mr. Cameron later agreed to release the records, and he was freed Friday afternoon.

Mr. Smith, 42, was held on a chauge of unlawful restraint, a third-degree felony. An arrest warrant set his bond at $100,000, but that later was lowered to $10,000. He was released Friday night.

"Because they are a tre institution, the law gives them the right to use a reasonable amount of force to keep discipline and order," Mr. Smith's attorney, Grant Jones, told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times . "It's analogous to parents using a reasonable amount of force to control their children.

"I think what we have here is a situation where the kids involved were on the edge of the rules, and the staff was trying to respond to it," he said. "The question is whether they responded reasonably or not. That's what it ultimately is going to be all about."

The sheriff's investigation began after Justin Simons, 18, told deputies that a church employee punched him in the chest on March 14, according to a Sheriff's Department report. Mr. Simons also said church authorities punished him and another resident on March 21 by tying their wrists together and forcing them to run through the woods.

Mr. Simons also said he was forced to dig in a pit as punishment, according to the report. Mr. Simons told deputies he was not allowed to take a break unless he jumped across the pit. He said he fell and sprained both ankles when he tried to jump it.

Mr. Smith was arrested in connection with abuse allegedly suffered by Mr. Simons and by a 17-year-old boy, Sheriff Olivarez said. Sheriff Olivarez would not release name the 17-year-old.

Mr. Simons' mother, Teresa Calalay, took him out of the home April 30. She said she was relieved to hear of Mr. Smith's arrest.

Deputies obtained a warrant and searched People's Baptist Church and Ministries on April 4. Sheriff Olivarez said deputies took photos and seized evidence on the 500-acre complex that corroborated part of Mr. Simons' story.

The youth homes are a last resort for youngsters with troubled histories, the Rev. Dale Blaser said in an interview last year. Mr. Blaser was head of the Texas Association of Christian Child Care Agencies Inc., which accredited the homes.

The youth homes closed in the 1980s after a lengthy church-vs.-state battle that drew national attention. The homes, founded by the late evangelist Lester Roloff, reopened last year under the management of People's Baptist Church.

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