Preacher, Fighting Licensing Of Boys’ Home, Surrenders To Authorities
FOREST HILL, Texas (AP) _ A fundamentalist preacher who fled the state five weeks ago to avoid arrest for operating a boys’ home without a license, and whose followers have hid the home’s residents, surrendered to authorities today.
The Rev. W.N. Otwell, who was met at his Community Baptist Church in this Fort Worth suburb by Tarrant County Sheriff Don Carpenter, said he made the decision to give himself up Friday.
″We just looked at some options and God gave me some peace,″ Otwell told a news conference. ″I was very uneasy about coming back to Texas, but I was satisfied that’s what God wanted.″
Otwell will be taken to Austin today to face contempt of court citations stemming from his refusal to obtain a state license for his church’s now- closed home for troubled boys, Carpenter said. Otwell and his church face $67,000 in fines.
The minister’s followers in mid-October thwarted the state’s attempt to gain custody of the boys by spiriting them away before law officers made a pre-dawn raid.
Otwell’s son, Rocky, 27, said Sunday night that the boys ″are in good places,″ though he declined to say where. ″Just say they are all in good hands,″ he said.
At one time, the home had as many as 100 boys.
On Oct. 6, State District Judge Paul Davis of Austin ordered the elder Otwell’s arrest after the minister failed to appear for a hearing concerning his refusal to obtain a license.
Otwell, who says that licensing would violate the separation between church and state, said today he has no idea what Davis will do.
″If Judge Paul Davis fears God, he’ll back off,″ Otwell said. ″If he doesn’t, he won’t.″ He added that ″Satan’s in control″ of the judicial system.
Mattox has said he would recommend the fines against Otwell and the church be dismissed if Otwell would license the home with the state, a move that Otwell has said he never would make.
Otwell said today that he would work for a state law exempting church- backed child care homes from licensing laws.