Confesses to Theft
A Pastor Resigns after Stealing
Nearly $20,000 in Church Money
"to Help a Young Woman"
The Associated Press / The Portland Oregonian
December 1, 1997
Talbot, Oregon -- The pastor of the tiny Talbot Community Church has resigned and pleaded guilty to aggravated theft after spending $19,800 in church money on an 18-year-old woman he met through his street ministry.
"I got involved when I was trying to help her get off drugs," Steven Whitbeck, 52, told the Statesman Journal. "I felt backed into a corner I didn't know any way out of."
Whitbeck, who had been pastor of the nondenominational church for six years, was known as an affable, outgoing person.
He and his wife and children lived in the parsonage next to the church, built by the southern Marion Community in 1948. The 18 church members share their facilities with the area's 130 residents for community events.
Parishioners first heard about his involvement with the young woman in early March.
"Some folks came to us with some information about an inappropriate relationship," said James Jenney, a church elder. "He admitted and confessed. We felt at that time he disqualified himself to continue to be our pastor."
Shortly after Whitbeck resigned, church elders found an investment account was short $19,800. That was when they turned to the sheriff's office.
There had been confessions and some forgiveness," Jenney said. "But just because you forgive someone you can't forget the need for some consequences."
Mark Peterson a Marion County sheriff's detective, learned the woman had been set up in an apartment and given a car and new clothes, all paid for with money stolen from the church.
Whitbeck had cashed certificates of deposit and put the money in a long-forgotten checking account that had been established for a youth fund, Peterson said. Statements from the account were sent to him.
Whitbeck recently pleaded guilty to a charge of aggravated theft. He was placed on four years' probation and ordered to pay all the money back.
Whitbeck, who now has a service job in Salem, said Saturday, "I went off the deep end. There's no question about it."
Some church members just wanted to put the incident behind them. Others thought Whitbeck's conviction would serve as a warning to others.
"As a board, we felt we'd leave it up to God and the courts," Jenney said.
Mother Found Guilty
but Insane in Death
by Holly Dankis of "The Oregonian"
October 9, 1997
Hillsboro, Oregon -- Saying "who knows what was going on in her mind," a judge Wednesday found Ada Louise Neilson guilty of killing her 22-month-old daughter but ruled she was insane at the time.
Washington County Judge Timothy P. Alexander concluded that Neilson, while in a psychotic state on October 20, 1996, held Caroline Victoria Sydney under water for the three to five minutes necessary to drown or strangle her in their Hillsboro bathtub.
However, Alexander said that prosecutor Robert W. Hermann, chief deputy district attorney, did not present enough evidence to prove that Neilson was intentionally trying to cause her daughter's death. So he found the 37-year-old mother guilty of first-degree manslaughter, but insane, and ordered her to the state mental hospital in Salem for not more than 20 years.
"There are a lot of religious overtones" to submerging in water, Alexander said, "a cleansing or baptism type of thing."
Much of the testimony during the six-day trial centered on Neilson's strong religious beliefs and paranoia about the devil or some vague evil "they" she thought was out to harm her and her daughter.
A couple who formerly lived in Beaverton testified that they heard Neilson speak in two separate voices and exhibit two different personalities, as if she were possessed, when they went to her apartment to pray with her eight days before her daughter's death.
In her normal voice, Neilson was a caring mother worried about her daughter's well-being. "They are gong to kill my daughter," she told Karen and Dane Dawson. Then, turning red in the face and foaming at the mouth, Neilson screamed in a guttural voice, "I am going to kill my daughter."
Neilson also showed the Dawsons furniture that she had moved into a utility room and out into the back yard because she thought it was possessed. Later that same night, Neilson set fire to the furniture. A neighbor, Gil Chapman, testified that he called the fire department because the flames were shooting above the eaves of Neilson's apartment.
He said she sounded sorry about causing a problem, but didn't seem agitated or out of control at the time. Instead, Chapman testified, Neilson said that she probably was in trouble and that the state would take her daughter away again.
Neilson already was on probation for endangering her child by swimming with the then-9-month-old baby in the Columbia River and staying on an island for three days in August 1995. She told psychiatrists that some men were after her.
The state Office of Services to Children and Families, then known as the Children Services Division, took custody of Caroline Sydney at the time. The girl wes on an unsupervised home visit at the time of her death.
Neilson has been diagnosed with a bipolar disorder as manic-depressive and had been hospitalized at least 10 times for psychiatric treatment. She tried to kill herself as many as six times, including when her daughter died.
Police found Neilson curled in a fetal position over her daughter's lifeless body after the girl's foster mother became concerned that Neilson didn't answer the door when the visit was supposed to be over.
Hermann, while agreeing that Neilson was insane, contended that she killed her daughter intentionally and sought a verdict of murder. During questioning Wednesday, Hermann got Dr. Scott Reichlin, a forensic psychiatrist at the Oregon State Hospital, to testify that even during a psychotic episode, a person knows what he or she is doing physically
Robert Elliott, Neilson's court-appointed attorney from the Metropolitan Public Defender's Office, argued that Neilson left her daughter unattended in the bathtub and was horrified to return and find that she had drowned. He said that constituted criminally negligent homicide.
Dr. Clifford Nelson, deputy State medical examiner ruled that Caroline Sydney died of strangulation and couldn't have drowned because there were marks around her neck and no water in her lungs or stomach. But defense expert Dr. William Brady, a private pathologist who was formerly Oregon's medical examiner, said the girl died of a "dry drowning."
After court, Elliott said Neilson was clearly relieved not to have been found guilty of murder.
Hermann noted, however, that because of the manslaughter verdict, Neilson will have to admit to her responsibility in killing her daughter -- and not continue to maintain that she accidentally drowned -- before psychiatrists can declare that her treatment is working.
Experts at the state hospital will determine what Neilson's treatment will be and a psychiatric review board will periodically hold hearings to determine if she is a danger to herself or others or whether she can be released before 20 years.
School Officials Face
Hearing on Failing
to Report Suspicions
by Gordon Gregory
Correspondent, The Oregonian
October 2, 1997
Prineville, Oregon -- A pretrial bearing will be October 20 for two Christian school officials cited for failing to report their suspicions that a teacher was molesting male students.
Sue Uptain, principal of the 180-student Crook County Christian School, and James Donohue, the school's superintendent, pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry maximum $1,000 fines. Donohue is also pastor of the First Assembly of God Church in Prineville, which opened the preschool through 12th grade school three years ago.
Both claimed they didn't know state law requires school employees to immediately report suspected sex abuse cases.
School officials learned May 9 that Phillip Marland, French and physical education teacher, might have molested a boy. But it wasn't reported to law enforcement officials until May 27, and that report was from the pastor of another church.
One of Marland's victims was reportedly molested after Crook County Christian School officials learned of the abuse but before it was reported to authorities.
Feared Attendance Would Drop
Marland had been indicted on 54 counts of sex abuse involving four boys. Last month, Marland, 42, pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual abuse and was sentenced to 7½ years in prison. As a French citizen, he likely will be deported when released from prison.
Crook County undersheriff Clyde McLain said there is evidence Donohue and Uptain knew they were legally required to immediately report suspected cases of sex abuse. He said Donahue was informed about the reporting requirements at a meeting last February. The meeting with area clergy was arranged by the district attorney's office to discuss the sex abuse reporting law.
McLain said one pastor reported that Uptain admitted she understood the law but delayed action out of fear attendance at the school would drop.
Virgins Still Atone for Sins
by Chuck Shepherd
A New York Times story reported on the limited success so far in eliminating, in some parts of Ghana, the practice of giving a virgin daughter to a priest in order to atone for some sin of the girl's family.
One example cited was a 12-year-old girl, the product of a rape, given to the local priest by the rapist as a slave (sexual and otherwise) in order to appease spirits who otherwise would treat the rapist and his family harshly.
If the sin is severe, the family must provide girls for several generations.
Oh, bull hockey!
Magical Bull's Urine
by Chuck Shepherd
A report in the Jakarta Post described the daily rush of ill people to the home of Cecilia Subini and her husband Florentinus Suparmo in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in order to be therapeutically licked and nuzzled by their bull Joko Andhini.
Thousands believe in the power of Joko's body, saliva, and urine (which some rub on their skin and others drink) to cure such maladies as incontinence, arthritis, strokes, rashes, diabetes, and cancer.
Sardine Treatment Works
Only On Special Days
by Chuck Shepherd
An Associated Press dispatch from Hyderabad, India, touted the success of the sardine-and-herb asthma treatment that hundreds of thousands travel for, to the Goud family home, on the one astrologically auspicious day of the year for swallowing the fish.
Well, I ain't into that!
Yet Another Bible Version
by Chuck Shepherd
An Associated Press profile of Bernard Williams, 77, of Hannibal, Missouri, described his work over the last 13 years: He has rewritten both the Old and New Testament of the Bible into rhyme in two books published by a local man, Jim Hefley, doing business as Hannibal Books. Williams's goal was to make the scriptures more accessible to readers.
Marriages' Gain Acceptance
by Chuck Shepherd
The news service Agence France Presse reported that the Lebanese Shiite Muslim organization Hezbollah had begun to embrace temporary "pleasure marriages" because poverty and a shortage of men have made regular marriage less desirable.
The temporary marriage ("mutaa"), based in the Koran, is a contract for a specific time (days to years) whereby an unmarried woman will take on the duties of wife in exchange for money.
According to Hezbollah, the "mutaa" implies a religious-based right to sexual pleasure that is not permitted in many other religions.
Atheists Who Love
by Chuck Shepherd
Scripps Howard News Service profiled former lawyer James Kelley of Washington, D.C., one of a small group at his local church who are enthusiastic Episcopalians but who do not believe in God. Said Kelley, "We all love the incense, the stained glass windows, the organ music, the vestments, and all of that. It's drama. It's aesthetics. It's the ritual. That's neat stuff. I don't want to give all that up, just because I don't believe in God."
A 'Hands-On Person'
Rev. Schuller Enters
by Chuck Shepherd
Rev. Robert Schuller was accused of roughing up a United Airlines flight attendant during a June trip from Los Angeles to New York and agreed in August to enter a first-offender program to settle the charge. The flight attendant said Schuller grabbed and shook him while demanding a fruit cup without cheese because, said the diet-conscious Schuller later, he was afraid that if the cheese were there, he would eat it. Schuller said that he was merely "trying to share the love of God" with the man and that "I am a hands-on person."
Found Hiding Among Choir Robes
Baptist Minister Defends Self
on Rape Charges
by Chuck Shepherd
Former Baptist minister Don McCary, 53, was reported to be planning to act as his own lawyer in his four impending retrials on sexual assault charges in Chattanooga, Tennessee. "I made a lot of stupid mistakes," he said, "but I did not rape those four boys." He had been convicted of the charges in 1992, but the Tennessee Supreme Court ordered new trials. They said the district judge had allowed "prejudicial" evidence against him, such as McCary's diary, in which he described his yearning for young boys and pornographic magazines, which he was found clutching while hiding among choir robes as police arrived to arrest him.
Atheism in a Bottle
by Conrad Goeringer
November 12, 1997
Remember when a few months ago American Muslims became outraged at a logo on a popular athletic sneaker which supposedly depicted letters which spelled "Allah"? That's was about one step above the folks that "see" depictions of the Virgin Mary in a water stain, as thousands of believers did last summer in Mexico City. Or the thousands who flocked to the home of a woman in Phoenix, Arizona several years ago amidst claims that she had discovered the outline of one Jesus Christ in the image of a homemade tortilla.
A similar outburst of religious xenophobia took place earlier this month in Cairo, Egypt where the newspaper Al-Ahrar ran the headline, "Atheism in a soda pop bottle," and informed readers that the graphics on the Arabic logo of Fanta soda looked like a select portion of the Muslim oath of faith that begins with the words, "There are no gods."
Left out were the rest of the words, "...but God (Allah), and Mohammed is God's prophet." Al-Ahrar quoted local academics who expressed outrage with the design, and suggested that the Coca-Cola company which distributes the softdrink was attempting to promote atheism in Egypt..
The Houston Chronicle quoted Hassan Kahlifa, Coke's regional manager, who said, "We are surprised that this misunderstanding has taken place now since Fanta has been available in Egypt for so many years."