Relentless Survivor of childhood sexual abuse pursued indictment of her abuser

Originally posted online: March 12, 2019 at 5:07 a.m. Last updated: 3/12/19 7:48p Words and courtroom photo by Patrice K. Muhammad, Editor

Now an adult, she says police, prosecutors and the church failed her

In 2017 Tanyqua Oliver attended a church service at House of Prayer in Nicholasville, KY. To her surprise, she said, Darnell Nutter was there.

When Tanyqua was 14, in 2006, the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) and Lexington Police investigated Darnell Nutter for raping her over several years, from the age of 9 until she was most 13 years old. 

Tanyqua says that Darnell was not a church visitor like her that day, he started helping out and made the alter call, inviting people to accept Jesus and join the church. During the service Tanyqua could not think of anything except the children, she recalled. Children were at the church, many without parents.

Painfully, she confronted the church’s pastor Tammel Thomas, who is her own mother and who was married to Darnell during the years he raped her in their home.

When asked why Darnell was at the church, around children, after her mother participated and pushed for the 2006 rape investigation, Tanyqua said her mother offered the growing church as an excuse and said, “because I need help”.

Alarmed, Tanyqua contacted the Lexington Police Department. “I spoke to an officer and told them that I remember a social worker came to talk to me many years ago and nothing really happened. I reported that Darnell was preaching and was around children and I wanted to know if he was given any sort of restriction” she said.

Her case, as all rape cases are, was still on record and Tanyqua was assigned a new detective who found out what happened in 2006. Her case had been archived, “pending vaginal exam’’. Tanyqua didn’t recall having an exam as part of the investigation but searched for one just in case. When she called the Children’s Advocacy Center, which operates an on-site medical clinic to evaluate children who have reported inappropriate physical contact, she was told that she had never been a client and there was not any record of a referral for her to have an exam.

After getting advice from the Children’s Advocacy Center, she requested her DCBS file. There she found a detailed report which chronicles several interviews with her mother, sister and even Darnell Nutter.

Tanyqua said the new detective interviewed her again, along with her mother and sister and with all the previous evidence was able to bring a formal complaint against Darnell Nutter to the Commonwealth’s Attorney, who presented the case to the grand jury in 2017.

Darnell Nutter was indicted on charges of 1st degree sodomy, rape and sexual abuse of a victim under the age of 12 and issued a bond amount of $22,500.

Commonwealth v. Darnell Nutter trial is set for June 17-18 in Circuit Court before Judge Lucy VanMeter.

If there was enough to indict in 2017, why didn’t anything happen in 2006?

Tanyqua filed a formal complaint with the Police Integrity Unit against Officer Timothy Ball (formerly Detective) who was the lead detective of the 2006 rape investigation.

Darnell Nutter appeared in front of Judge Lucy VanMeter 3/8/2019 for a status hearing that moved his trial forward one month to June 17-18, 2019.

Current Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers decided there were no grounds for discipline of Ball for the way her case was handled in 2006. Tanyqua made a request to see the documentation Weathers used to make his determination and was denied.

Tanyqua wanted to know why the investigation was incomplete. She was not allowed to access her police file, even filing an appeal with the State Attorney General who ruled in her favor but, so far, she has been denied and the city of Lexington has filed a lawsuit to appeal the Attorney General’s ruling. That case is still ongoing and Tanyqua hopes the records will explain why the investigation stalled.

Why didn’t any adults make sure he was prosecuted in 2006?

Tanyqua’s mother was documented as an active participant in the DCBS report but, at some point, stopped pursuit of justice on behalf of her daughter and developed a friendly relationship with Darnell after their divorce.

“I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through,” Tanyqua said. She recalled Darnell violating her sexually in her bedroom, which she shared with her sister, when their mother left them in his care while she worked third shift.  

However, she said it wasn’t limited to their home. “If he thought no one was looking, he’d grope me anywhere – in the car, in stores, at church,’’ Tanyqua said.

When her mother and Darnell were married, Tanyqua said they attended St. John Baptist Church in Lexington and were members there during the time of the 2006 investigation.

DCBS reports reviewed for this story show that Tanyqua’s mother named at least one female church members as “support’’ for her during this time.

There were at least some church members who knew what Darnell was accused of in 2006. Some may have heard it from Tanyqua’s mother but some may have found out through her father.

Tanyqua’s father, Delon Oliver, said that he was angry about the abuse and kept following up with police but was given limited information because he was not the custodial parent. Back in 2006, Delon said he began asking around town and heard rumors of other incidents Darnell was allegedly involved in related to rape. Delon learned that the police wanted to speak with Darnell, who could not be found.

“I put out flyers in Darnell’s neighborhood, at the church, in the church, on members cars…with his picture on it and ‘’WANTED FOR POLICE QUESTIONING” with the details of what he was accused of,’’ Delon said. Inside St. John, he caught a glimpse of Darnell. “The pastor and others stalled me when they were aware what I was there for. I saw Bishop (Jerome) Norwood talking with Darnell in the church and told him I wanted to call the police to come get him because he was wanted for questioning about molesting my daughter. They whisked Darnell away, he vanished.”

Delon said he was shocked to hear from his daughter that Darnell was not prosecuted more than a decade ago considering all the evidence.

Even though he was helping at House of Prayer in Nicholasville, Tanyqua heard that Darnell was still a member of St. John Baptist Church in 2017 after the indictment.

Concerned for the children there, Tanyqua found information on the website Survivors of Clergy Abuse about how to hold a peaceful demonstration outside a church.

During her protest, she says, Darnell pulled into the curved drive in front of the church doors with his clergy collar on and just stared at her. She said there was a young woman her age who stood silently with her in tears and older church women came with loud petitions for God to “heal her mind”. “It was a lot of prayers as if something was wrong with me,” Tanyqua said. “Bishop Norwood called the police on me. The police said I was within my rights and told me to stay on the sidewalks. A Black officer asked if I wanted [the police] to stay. That meant a lot to me.”

Bishop Jerome Norwood says that Darnell Nutter is “no longer part of the church” and left on his own last year so his actions would not reflect on the church.  Before leaving, Norwood said Darnell was “one of the ministers in training, active as a choir member and drummer and worked with youth. There have been no accusations by church youth.”

Except Tanyqua.  

“These accusations have caused a stir up,” said Norwood who does not understand why the church is connected to this situation at all. “Nothing happened in the church, these just happened to be church members.”

Tanyqua’s concern is that members don’t know who sits beside them at church and may not have all the information needed to protect their children.

Through this investigation, a documented rape was found to have happened at St. John Baptist Church in 2001. Court documents state that Fred Nutter, Darnell’s brother, was indicted on rape charges stemming from a documented sexual assault of a minor girl at 511 Thurman Drive (St. John Baptist Church). He plead guilty to lesser sexual abuse charges after several years in jail awaiting trial and unable to make bail.

When asked about the fact that another Nutter was charged with a rape that happened at the church years before Darnell was accused by his estranged wife of raping her child, Bishop Norwood replied, “What does that have to do with anything?”

Upon learning of the 2001 rape Tanyqua said, “it made everything worse.” After WLEX-18 posted Darnell’s mug shot in an online story, that has since been removed by that station, Tanyqua said people left comments about Darnell being involved in a rape in a choir room. “They had the details wrong, but I was so shocked to hear about it and see that so many people outside the church knew more than I did.”

The court documents and interviews used for this story were shared with Tanyqua. She said, “Nobody wants to confront this situation. It’s painful to hear (Bishop Norwood’s) remarks. Why didn’t anyone make sure that this was handled, especially knowing Darnell’s brother raped a girl in the building? The pastor watched (Darnell) marry another woman with children in the church after my mother.”

Tanyqua feels betrayed by law enforcement, prosecutors and the church, “He’s been out on the street and may have abused other kids and the police let it happen. It shows how seriously police take sexual assault.”

Now living in Cincinnati, Tanyqua will return for the trial of her abuser but it doesn’t feel like a victory. She fears the trial process.

“I want him to go to prison, like he would have done when I was a child. But now I’m 26 years old and they’ll dig up everything I’ve done over my entire life including my acting out in desperation from what he did to me. I did not get my justice as a teen, it’s coming now after I’ve imploded. I’m not going to be the victim, I’m going to be the accused.”

She has one message for members of her former church. “I know there’s no going back, so I can only say that I want them to be honest. Don’t try to pin this on my mom or attempt to make me look crazy. They enable rapists, and in my opinion, they don’t care about child victims. It’s about preserving the name of the church.”

The Key Newsjournal will follow the trial, expected to begin with jury selection June 17. Trial will be heard in an open court.

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