Entries in Imprisoned (2)


North Carolina Man Says Church Kept Him Imprisoned for Being Gay

WLOS-TV/ABC News(SPINDALE, N.C.) -- A North Carolina church that has previously faced allegations of harassment and child abuse is the subject of a new investigation launched after a 22-year-old man claims he was held against his will for being gay.

Michael Lowry, who began attending Word of Faith Fellowship Church in Spindale, N.C., as a child, filed a complaint with police earlier this year and has met with investigators multiple times over the past week about the allegations, according to police.

Lowry claims that he was kept in a church dormitory for months in 2011 after telling church members he was gay, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Lowry told ABC News affiliate WLOS-TV that he was knocked unconscious by church members in August 2011 as they read him scripture because of his sexuality.

"The pastor said to find out what my darkest secret was, and I was like, 'I'm never telling,' Lowry told WLOS.  "They hit my head with fists and I was out on the floor, they held my hands and feet down and were pushing on my chest and I could barely breathe."

Lowry could not be reached for comment by ABC News.

The Rutherford County, N.C., sheriff's department met with Lowry on Friday to go over his claims again, according to Sheriff Chris Francis.

"We did a follow up interview, we looked at the allegations against the individuals, and it looks like they're part of the church, and then we did a presentation to the district attorney and the assistant district attorney on Friday," Francis said.  "We believe there will be a presentation to the grand jury sometime in the near future."

Lowry has been subpoenaed to testify in front of the grand jury about his claims, Francis said.

Jane Whaley, a pastor of Word of Faith, told ABC News the allegations are "not the truth at all."

Whaley said she and other church members, including Lowry's parents, had no idea Lowry was gay until a televised news report which aired last week.  He never told them he was gay when he was a church member, she said.

"As far as this church being against gays, that's absurdity.  There are 18 people in this church who have been delivered, they're not homosexual anymore, but if they were they could still stay in the church," she said.

Whaley said that the room Lowry claimed to be locked in is not able to be locked from the outside.  She said that Lowry came willingly to stay at the church after his parents threw him out for "rebellious behavior" and that he stayed in a building used for Bible study.

She pointed out that Lowry has appeared on news broadcasts with a fellow ex-church member, Jerry Cooper, on numerous occasions to discuss the allegations.  Cooper has been outspoken about his dislike for the church, she said.

"(Lowry) wouldn't be saying this except some disgruntled members have pushed him to do that, one of them being the guy that's with him and two others," Whaley said on Monday.  Whaley noted that she still loved Lowry and Cooper, despite their claims.

Cooper has pressed charges against Word of Faith members for harassment, and a court date is set for November, Francis said.

"I've witnessed it, the patterns, the people held down, the loud screaming, all of it, so I knew Michael's story was very credible," Cooper told WLOS in an interview with Lowry present.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Autistic Boys Caged 'to Keep Them Safe,' Suspect Testifies

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(VANCOUVER, Wash.) -- A Vancouver, Wash., man accused of imprisoning his two autistic sons in a room with a "cage-like" door testified that he'd heard on TV that it was OK to lock a child in a room for safety, and his former live-in girlfriend broke down in tears on the stand.

John Eckhart, 31, and Alayna Higdon, 27, locked up the two boys, ages 5 and 7, "to keep them they wouldn't get hurt when we weren't immediately available," Higdon told the jury on Friday, wiping her eyes.

The couple, who were arrested in April 2011, are charged with unlawful imprisonment of the two children between October 2010 and April 2011. If convicted, they could face up to three months in jail.

The room had only one child-sized race-car bed, no toys and no light, according to the prosecutions' opening statement on Monday.

The defense portrayed the couple as "naive," according to ABC Affiliate KATU.

Eckhart testified that he heard on a reality TV series, either Supernanny or Nanny 911, that it is acceptable to lock a child up if that child could otherwise hurt himself, according to The Columbian newspaper of Vancouver.

He also told jurors that he never passed eighth grade and still struggles with reading and writing, KATU reported.

Higdon said the "cage-like" door was installed less than two weeks before their arrest because the boys destroyed the room's original door by pounding it, kicking it, and beating their heads against it, according to The Columbian. They intended to put up a transparent plastic door, but it was too expensive, so they settled for metal-wire shelving.

The boys' 10-year-old brother took the stand Wednesday, telling the courtroom that he would often pass food through the metal slots because the boys were not allowed out for most of the day. Eckhart denied this.

The older autistic boy is in foster care, and the younger boy has been living with his biological mother, according to The Columbian.

Closing arguments are expected on Tuesday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio