The wheels of justice grind slow, but they grind exceedingly fine.
Some of you are already just as familiar with the name Melody Bannister as you are with the name Ella Draper while some of you have never heard her name before now.
Her story is very similar to the one that we heard from "across the pond" six years ago.
Melody's children came to her in early 2019 and began to disclose that they were being sexually abused by their father, William J. Bannister, their grandfather, Jay Thul Bannister, and other individuals. They told stories of being removed from the home at night and abused; stories that any parent would immediately wish to dismiss as nothing more than the concoctions of a child's fanciful imagination.
But she knew her children and she knew they were telling her the truth.
Melody went to those in positions of authority in hopes of getting the help she needed for her children. According to her attorney, Sam McLure, her first stop was the local CPS office in Virginia where "a 15-minute cursory interview" was conducted with the children. Based on that interview, they "wrote the children off as having vivid imaginations."
She then turned to local law enforcement. "There was no significant investigation."
In order to protect her children from more abuse, she took her four children and left for Alabama where she set up residence and began homeschooling them.
"We left home with barely a week’s worth of summer clothes and are practically penniless, living off the kindness of friends, who one by one have taken us under their wings," Melody is quoted as saying on a Change.org petition.
In the midst of a divorce proceeding, William went to a Stafford County Court in Virginia and obtained a custody order requiring Melody to return the children.
Rather than obey that order, Melody and the children ran. Eight months later, the US Marshals arrested her in Hendricks County, Indiana. She remained in custody in Indiana for over 100 days "with no due process, no court appearance."
Attorney McLure says that Melody's stay in that Indiana jail was a part of "God's good plan" and was even "necessary for several key pieces of evidence to begin to come to light."
A corroborating victim, Rebecca McCullough, has come forward saying that she too had been abused by William, and the other men the children have made allegations against dating back to 2013. She has stated that she is willing to testify to these facts under oath and signed an affidavit. The larger shock-waves from the emergence of this witness though, are that she additionally names the Sheriff of Stafford County as being among the abusers.
Attorney McLure is honest that when he first heard Melody's story, he found it difficult to believe. One of his first courses of action were to set about verifying the mental health of those making these allegations to determine whether or not the children were just making these things up and whether or not their mother was insane.
In August 2019 Michael Stone M.D., Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons spoke with Melody and reviewed the information that she had written about the abuse her children had suffered. His professional opinion was that she is a woman who "is of sound mind - and speaks truthfully and believable about the circumstances involving the abuse of her children (the girls, most especially)." And that "she shows no signs of any mental disorder or illness."
Marie Anderson, MA, LPC, of New Hope Associates also issued a statement concerning Melody whom she had been seeing on a monthly basis between September 2016 and November 2018 for "family of origin issues as well as current marital and life stressors."
According to her records, Melody had "no history or mood disorder, depression or mania. No history of dysmenorrea - fatigue, agitation, headaches. No post partum depression or addiction. She did not report any suicidal or homicidal ideation prior to or during treatment." In summary, when treatment concluded she was "confident in her [Melody's] ability to do extremely well as she faced the challenges in her marriage and caring for her children."
The four children underwent evaluation by a "nationally recognized" forensic psychiatrist and expert witness over the course of the better part of 9 hours which determined that "these children's memories are credible and based in reality."
In the conclusion of her report, Carole Lieberman, M.D., M.P.H., stated that "It is my opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that [the Bannister children] have been abused: physically, sexually and emotionally, as described above. They are in need of a protective order to keep them safe from their father William J. Bannister, who, not only has been regularly and sadistically beating the children, but also who has been regularly providing his daughters to his father, Jay Thul Bannister, and their friends, for ritual physical and sexual abuse, in his father's barn..." Her conclusions continue by saying "These are not false memories implanted in their minds by their mother or anyone else."
Currently, Attorney McLure is releasing a series of videos covering the evidence of the case. The first one is linked above. The next video is scheduled to be released on July 20th.
Melody has a trial court date scheduled for September before the Juvenile Court.