Toby Willis was arraigned on four counts of child rape on Monday, March 13, in Ashland City after a grand jury heard his case, said Circuit Court Clerk Julie Hibbs.
Willis pleaded not guilty to the charges, read by Circuit Judge Larry Wallace. His official plea date is set for July 11, and the trial is set to begin July 18.
Willis was set to next appear in Cheatham County General Sessions Court on May 31 after the completion of psychological testing requested by his attorney Michael Shipman, but the state decided to present its case to the March grand jury, Hibbs said.
Shipman was not present at the arraignment, but Willis was represented by a public defender, Hibbs said.
Willis, the father of the Willis Clan, a country-folk band based in Ashland City made up of Willis, his wife, Brenda, and their 12 children, has been in Cheatham County Jail since September, when he was arrested in Kentucky by TBI agents under suspicion that he had raped a 9- to 12-year-old girl about 12 years ago.
Willis waived his right to a preliminary hearing within 10 days of his arrest, and then saw the date of that hearing pushed back several times. At his Nov. 30 appearance, Shipman requested the psychological evaluation, saying that he had "come to question (his client's) competence."
Prosecutors objected to the request, but General Sessions Judge Philip Maxey granted a continuance to March 1, where the hearing was again pushed back to the end of May.
The Willis Clan was the subject of a TLC reality show called "The Willis Family." The show ran for two seasons before TLC announced days after Willis' arrest that it would not be renewed for a third. A TLC spokesman said the show's cancellation had been decided before Willis' arrest.
Toby Willis of the Willis Clan arraigned on 4 counts of child rape Max R. Smith , USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee March 13, 2017
A Shelby man was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison for raping a 4-year-old girl. The vicious acts happened between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2011.
After serving time on probation and in prison for taking indecent liberties with a child, Earl Wayne Queen Jr. was released. Taking pity on him at the holidays, a family took him in and vowed to keep a close eye on him.
Despite those efforts, Queen found time alone with the child once and possibly twice. He used those opportunities to rape the little girl. Queen kept the child quiet by threatening to kill her parents, but four years later, she revealed her secret to a school counselor. The girl's parents were notified, and charges were filed against Queen.
Queen has been in jail on six sex offenses related to the incident since December 2015. The child's mother says she's glad he won't see freedom for years.
She says the only solace she gets from what her child has been through is that others are now safe.
"One of the main helpful things for me is that he will be locked up for a long time," she said.
The woman said since the rape, her daughter has been put on anxiety medication, and she's been going to counseling. She has seen an improvement in her daughter just since Tuesday's court hearing.
"Her nightmares and night terrors have really calmed down a lot," she said.
The woman stood before the judge to read from letters both she and her daughter wrote to express what Queen did to their lives.
"It got to where I wanted to end my life. I realized life, my life, was too beautiful to throw it away," the child wrote.
The little girl is interested in starting a nonprofit that would allow her to talk to children and let them know that speaking out is OK, her mother said.
To end her letter, the girl asked God to have mercy on Queen's soul. Her mother is not quite ready to give a blessing to the man who so seriously injured her child.
"He is dead to me and will be as long as there is breath in my body. You are everything I hate," she said in court.
Given a chance to speak, Queen apologized, but the woman was overcome with emotion and left the courtroom.
Queen already is serving prison time for a conviction for taking indecent liberties with a child out of Cleveland County. The 40-year-old Shelby man is a registered sex offender with a history of sex crimes against children in Cleveland and Gaston counties. He has been convicted of taking indecent liberties with a child in 1994, 1995 and 2012.
Once he is released, Queen will be on satellite-based monitoring and the sex offender registry for life.
A New York City police officer who was convicted of raping and sexually assaulting his girlfriend's daughter on multiple occasions has been sentenced to just three years in prison.
Vladimir Krull, 39, was facing up to 21 years behind bars after a jury found him guilty on multiple counts of rape, sexual abuse, and committing a criminal sexual act along with a single count of endangering the welfare of a child on three incidents.
Those three incidents involved Krull and the daughter of a woman he dated for two years.
In both the initial report to police and her testimony at trial, the young victim spoke about how Krull raped her on two occasions when she was 13, while also forcing her to perform oral sex on him that same year while they sat in a car outside her school.
Krull had just taken the girl to her father/daughter breakfast when he forced her to engage in the sexual act with him, according to the complaint.
The victim had just lost her father the previous year at that time, and his passing was the reason Krull had been asked to accompany her to the event.
The victim testified in court that Krull began sexually assaulting her in September of 2013 when he kissed her on the mouth just a few weeks after she turned 13 and started the eighth grade.
Krull then raped the victim on at least two occasions according to the complaint and trial testimony.
Prosecutors then doubled that number after Krull's arrest, stating that the fourth and final time the civil servant forced himself on his girlfriend's child came exactly one year after that first kiss.
The victim, who is now 16, testified under oath that Krull, who was 37 at the time, first forced her into having sex with him in her mother's apartment and later made her engage in intercourse while they were in his car.
Those two rapes occurred sometime between November of 2013 and February of the following year.
The aforementioned third incident took place in June 2014 according to the initial complaint and testimony from the trial, with the victim recounting how Krull forced her to give him oral sex in his car.
The prosecution had also stated that Krull had engaged in sexually explicit conversations with the victim up until just days before his arrest in February of 2015.
He was taken in after the victim's mother went into his work and told officers at the Midtown North Precinct that Krull had raped her daughter multiple times.
It was also the mother who reported the history of sexually explicit conversations between the two, stating that the most recent one had occurred just a few days prior between her daughter and her ex.
The jury deliberated for five days after sitting through four weeks of arguments and testimony in the case, and after handing down their verdict prosecutors for the Bronx District Attorney's Office pushed for Krull to receive a 15-year sentence.
In the end however, the former sergeant for the NYPD was given a three-year sentence for each of the three major charges.
He will also be able to serve those three sentences concurrently, thus commuting a nine-year sentence by two-thirds in the case.
Krull will also have to register as a sex offender and will be supervised and monitored for a five-year period after his release.
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