Originally Published: August 10, 2018 4:06 p.m.
EDITOR'S NOTE: To read more on Chantry taking the stand Friday, Aug. 10, click here.
Thomas Chantry took the stand in his own defense Friday in the trial of the former pastor accused of multiple counts of child molestation dating back to more than two decades. The trial wrapped up its third week Friday.
Chantry, 47, was indicted on five counts of child molestation and three aggravated assault charges. He is accused of committing these offenses more than 20 years ago while he worked as a pastor at Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott.
During opening questions Friday morning by Chantry’s defense attorney, John Sears, Chantry denied assaulting the alleged victims in the case. “No, I did not,” Chantry answered five times in a row to each of his attorney’s questions.
Chantry left Prescott 10 years ago and became a pastor in Wisconsin. He was arrested in 2016 and extradited back to Arizona. Since then, his trial has been rescheduled and canceled multiple times.
In opening arguments, prosecuting attorney Susan Eazer outlined occurrences where she said Chantry disciplined the children of the families in his congregation. The discipline eventually turned into abuse and molestation, she said.
However, Sears on Friday asked Chantry about a key incident in the case that occurred on the Fourth of July after Chantry was hired as minister at the Miller Valley Baptist Church.
In earlier testimony, one of the alleged victims said, “All of us kids had a water fight. [Chantry] said ‘don’t anyone squirt.’ I squirted him and he balled his fist and hit me.”
“No, this did not happen,” Chantry said Friday.
Chantry said he was not “upset” at the annual Fourth of July celebrants who had gathered outside of the parsonage that was his home next to the church, but was “frustrated.” Being the son of minister, he described growing up in a parsonage from the age of 10 where his family did not have much privacy. That, he said, contributed to his frustration with the children.
The minister said he never grabbed anyone, never threatened anyone, and only spoke loudly to get the children to stop spraying large squirt guns near older church members. He was trying to get children to move to the parking lot, he testified.
The minister’s attorney asked Chantry to describe his experiences in ministry school and the frequent visits he made to the Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott before he applied and received the job in 1995.
Chantry said that church members badly missed the former long-time minister, so much so that they would cry when he walked up to the pulpit.
He said it was tough for some of the families in the congregation to see a new minister move into the former pastor’s home. Some, he said, were hostile and would walk away from him.
“I took it personally,” he said.
Chantry was 24 years old at the time, and questioned if he made a mistake in accepting the job at the Miller Valley Baptist Church.
Testimony in Chantry’s trial will continue Tuesday in Division 7 of the Yavapai County Superior Court in Camp Verde.
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