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Jury selection in rape trial begins today

Jury selection begins Monday in the trial of a Gilford man accused of the 1997 rape of a teenage girl who babysat his children and attended the same Concord church.

Ernest P. Willis, 52, of Gilford stands trial in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord on two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and two counts of felonious sexual assault.

Willis' alleged victim is on the state's witness list and is expected to testify against him at trial.

The New Hampshire Union Leader generally does not disclose the names of sexual assault victims. But Tina Anderson, now in her late 20s, asked she be publicly identified during media interviews last year.

Willis allegedly raped Anderson twice at her Concord home when her parents were away and impregnated her with his child.

Anderson, then 15, was forced by Trinity Baptist Church leaders to stand before the congregation to apologize for becoming pregnant, according to the Concord Monitor. Willis also was called before the church's fellowship to apologize for not being faithful to his wife, the Monitor reported.

Church officials reported the sexual assaults to authorities. But police said their investigation was stymied for more than a decade because Anderson moved to Colorado to live with another church member. There she was home-schooled and gave birth to the child, which she gave up for adoption.

Concord police reopened the case last year when a detective learned of it through a Facebook page titled 'Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Cult Survivors' and contacted Anderson, who was then living in Arizona. Anderson, who is married and the mother of three other children, answered his questions.

Willis was charged with the felony sexual assaults last June.


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