Bishop Excommunicates Defiant Priest

By Liz Mitchell
Star Exponent [Culpeper VA]
August 23, 2006

The case of Charles Shifflett, pastor of First Baptist Church of Culpeper, has been continued to Sept. 18 for legal reasons.

Scheduled for an arraignment Tuesday morning in Circuit Court, Shifflett's lawyer Samuel Higginbotham II, of Orange, requested a two-week continuance to obtain a "bill of particulars" from the Commonwealth, which would outline facts of each charge against his client.

Shifflett, 54, faces seven charges of physical and sexual abuse against children for incidents that occurred at his former church, Cavalry Baptist, up to 20 years ago.

"Right now we cannot tell the particular facts for a particular charge," Higginbotham said in court.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Smith is representing five victims in the case. Chad Robison, 29, was the first person to come forward after the Culpeper County Sheriff's Office arrested Shifflett in January on charges of cruelty and injury to children. Three of Shifflett's charges relate to physical and sexual abuse against Robison.

Later that month, Liz Bailey, 35, obtained a citizen warrant against Shifflett on a charge of indecent liberties for an incident of a sexual nature that occurred in 1988.

In March, her 28-year-old brother, Woody Leake, brought charges against Shifflett for physical and emotional abuse he endured as an elementary school student at Cavalry Baptist Academy - the church's adjoining K-12 private school.

One of his charges was dropped. However, Shifflett is facing a charge of cruelty and injury to Leake for a "tree game," in which Shifflett allegedly took boys out of school to split wood and told them to stand as close to the trees as possible while they were falling. Those who would run away, Leake said, Shifflett would belittle by calling names.

The tree game constitutes another of Shifflett's charges against an unnamed victim, who was 17 at the time.

Shifflett's latest arrest came in June through direct indictments the commonwealth brought before a grand jury on two charges of cruelty and injury to children.

The first is in relation to 27-year-old Robert Hammonds, who attended the church's school as a young boy and teenager.

The commonwealth has not commented as to the nature of the charge.

The second charge relates to Robison and is sexual in nature but is considered "tormenting" a child because Smith said the Commonwealth could not prove Shifflett had a lascivious intent.

If found guilty, Shifflett could face a total sentence of up to 35 years in prison or a $17,500 fine for the Class 6 felonies.

Smith told Circuit Court Judge John Cullen he could have the particulars mailed to Higginbotham within one week.

Shifflett's arraignment now moves to Sept. 18 at 4 p.m., when a trial date would be set.

Cullen ordered Shifflett to abide by the conditions of his current bond, which include refraining from alcohol, drugs and possessing firearms.

He is also forbidden to have direct or indirect contact or communication with any witnesses who will testify in the case, the victims or their family members.

And he must not have contact with anyone under 18 unless another adult is present.

Liz Mitchell can be reached at 825-0771 ext. 110 or


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